After directing his first English-language film “This Must Be the Place” starring Sean Penn as an aging rocker, director Paolo Sorrentino returns to Italy and ventures into Fellini territory with “The Great Beauty.”
Jep Gambardella (Tom Servillo) is a journalist/socialite who has just recently celebrated his 65th birthday with a lavish party surrounded by friends and colleagues. He has been interviewed many celebrities in his years as a journalist and he is constantly pestered by his colleagues of when will he write the follow-up to his legendary novel, “The Human Apparatus.” However, he soon finds himself reflecting on his past after receiving some shocking news.
After collaborating with Sorrentino on “Il Divo” Servillo delivers a great performance as a suave gentlemen who finds himself wondering whether or not he will still be relevant and if he has any regrets about the life that he has lived. “The Great Beauty” is a reflection of the beautiful cinematography from Luca Bigazzi as he showcases Rome using fascinating lighting and camera movement techniques to make the movie a wonder to behold on the big screen. The dazzling cinematography is truly showcased in the opening party sequence as Bigazzi does his best to encapsulate the atmosphere of the ensuing festivities in just a couple of scenes.
The movie is amusing in the way Sorrentino satirizes today’s society with jabs at our obsession with religion, celebrities, performance art and youth. However, it still doesn’t make up for the lack of story in this film. It feels more like a bunch of vignettes string together that is generally uneven as Jep wanders around Rome and encounter certain individuals like a 12-year-old painter, a plastic surgeon guru and a 104-year-old Mother Teresa-esque saint as he searches for the meaning in his life. With a two-and-a-half hour running time, there could have been some scenes left on the cutting room floor that would not have been missed at all. It probably would have made “The Great Beauty” is a little more coherent.
“The Great Beauty” might be a little uneven in its storytelling, but it certainly a film that should be experiences on the silver screen as it boosts an impressive performance from Servillo and breathtaking images to behold courtesy of the movie’s excellent cinematography.
“The Great Beauty” is now playing at the Cosford Cinema, Cinema Paradiso – Hollywood, MDC Koubek Theater and the Miami Beach Cinematheque. Click here for showtimes.