House of Versace

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
House of Versace Movie Poster Image
Fashion biopic mixes messages of hard work, drug abuse.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Family unity and succeeding through hard work is stressed in House of Versace, which also imparts messages about celebrity worship and image mattering beyond all else.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Versace family members are complicated role models -- loving to each other but also ruthless, selfish, and determinedly pleasure-seeking.


Brief footage of the real-life murder of Gianni Versace. We see blood and Versace on a gurney getting chest compressions.


A married couple cuddle in bed half-dressed; the camera lingers on body parts and there are many shots of scantily dressed models. At one point the camera pans lasciviously up the body of a young tween girl.


Some cursing, mostly conversationally: "Put your hand on her ass," Donatella advises one model to another mid photo-shoot.


The movie is about real people with a real (very expensive) fashion line, which is available for sale at many boutiques. Real celebrities are also mentioned: Madonna, Sharon Stone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

We see characters onscreen drinking and smoking. Donatella Versace is addicted to cocaine and other drugs and at one point enters rehab to quit. But before that we see her snorting onscreen.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that House of Versace is a relatively mild biopic about the Versace family, but it does include scenes with cocaine use, smoking, and drinking, with some consequences. As with many dramas set in the modeling world, there are many shots of scantily clad models, both backstage and on the runway, and the camera lingers on their body parts. The camera also scans up the body of a young tween girl. There is brief footage of the real-life murder of Gianni Versace; we see blood and Versace on a gurney being worked over by EMTs. Parents may also be concerned that movies about the fashion industry in general focus on appearance and image above all else. However, House of Versace also stresses hard work and families pulling together in times of crisis; the members of the Versace family come across as admirable and plucky.

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What's the story?

The fashion world was rocked by the 1997 murder of Gianni Versace (here played by Enrico Colatani), the famous scion of the HOUSE OF VERSACE who had risen from his humble beginnings to become the couturier for famous celebrities like Madonna and Princess Diana. His family, including serious older brother Santo (Colm Feore) and free-spirited muse Donatella (Gina Gershon), was torn apart with Gianni gone. They'd built the fashion line together: Santo did the business stuff, Gianni made the clothes, Donatella got press and worked on Gianni's styling. But with Gianni gone, who would keep the business going? Without her older brother, Donatella at first falls apart. But with the love of her family, she keeps the House of Versace thriving.

Is it any good?

It's mesmerizing to watch Gina Gershon in her Donatella drag: platinum wig, pursed lips, but this biopic is actually way less trashy than one would think. Sure, there are models in rainbow-hued PVC dresses, gold vials of cocaine, and runway shows. But House of Versace also peeks in on the Versace family members in unguarded moments, during which it becomes hard not to like the close-knit family. They're in a cruel business that prizes appearance and big spenders above all else, but they're kind to each other, and they spend time together, like real families do.

Thus House of Versace emerges as a somewhat unlikely, and surprisingly tame, tale of a hardworking family which succeeds despite obstacles. That's a good message, if parents can accept that it comes wrapped in a story with half-naked models and hedonistic discos.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why the world of fashion is a frequent setting for movies and TV shows. Why is the fashion industry more compelling than say, international banking or running a successful website?

  • The Versace family contributed to the book, House of Versace, that is the basis of this television movie. Given how the Versaces are portrayed, does that surprise you?

  • After watching House of Versace, does the fashion industry look glamorous to you? Why or why not?

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