Director: Paolo Sorrentino
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
If there’s a film that could be labeled as pretentious and full of itself this year, it would be “The Great Beauty,” but this would be a serious misunderstanding of this film.
Jep Gambardella is a writer, or at least he was a writer. He wrote one book 40 years ago when he first came to Rome, but the city swallowed him up as he got caught up in the Rome’s high life, partying every night and having high-minded pretentious discussions with his friends. After celebrating his 65th birthday, he receives news that the love of his life from years past has died, and it causes him to reflect on his life and his failure, of the ideals he held when he first came to Rome and how he lost his way, saying that he would write when he managed to find the great beauty but never did.
The pretentiousness in this film is actually part of the point. Jep has lost himself, and he’s now seeing how hollow and empty his life really is as he wanders Rome, taking in art, seeing old friends, and forming and breaking relationships. Like an Italian Ulysses, it’s an examination of life on a journey through the city. The characters are well-written without becoming annoying, and the city itself can be considered a living, breathing character within the context of this film. It’s one of the most introspective films as Jep looks inside himself while examining Rome in all its beauty and all its squalor.
This film’s editing can occasionally be troublesome and lead to some confusion until later shots clear up any problems. Also, the movie can feel like it’s a little too long and probably could have been edited down a little further, although it’s difficult to tell if that could have diminished the overall effect. The soundtrack is also quite catchy, although it’s also very eclectic, so it may not be to everyone’s tastes.
“The Great Beauty” is a fantastic film once you get below its flashy and pretentious surface, and even that surface is impressive to look at. A movie of many layers, it’s definitely worth your time if you have the time to give.
“The Great Beauty” earns 4.5 out of 5 stars.