The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty ★★★½

A Movie A Day 2013: Day 323

Part of jvince's Top Ten Films of 2013

The Good: Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) has long been searching for "the great beauty," but to his dismay, all he has found is endless ugliness. Jep, the writer of a highly-regarded novel—as well as a stand-in for director Paolo Sorrentino himself—has been saddled with perhaps the worst case of writer's block in the history of writing. For forty years, everyone is still waiting for the follow-up to his legendary debut. You'd think living in Rome and having the best view of the freaking Colosseum would inspire him, but he's only grown more and more disenchanted. The sights may be pretty, but the people here are empty. The high life has bored him—his well-to-do acquaintances constantly spouting complexities that are really just full of bullshit; the cardinal whose only interest seems to be food; the botox injections served like communion in a church; the nightly parties on his rooftop with a conga line that goes nowhere. This is exactly how Jep feels. Everything goes nowhere. Life goes nowhere. Everyone normal has left him. All his friends have left the city and all his lovers have passed away. All he's surrounded with is the vulgar. All he's left with is the mundane. Each day is filled with mundanities. Each day is filled with pointless moments. Life, for Jep, now feels pointless. Toni Servillo delivers an incredible peformance as the lead. In fact, the entire cast is quite strong—Carlo Verdone and Carlo Buccirosso, in particular, are a hoot as Jep's friends, Romano and Lello. The cinematography is simply breathtaking with plenty of gorgeous, symmetrically framed tracking shots. At some points, it feels like you're watching a Ron Fricke film ala Baraka and Samsara. The soundtrack is also just as fantastic with a nice balance of Euro-pop dance music and haunting chorals to contrast the sacredness and the profanity of the city.

The Bad: Some might find it a bit bizarre and pretentious. Not much happens and the parties get repetitive, but that's the point. There are also a few scenes such as the opening that Sorrentino himself admitted has no significance to the plot. La Grande Bellezza is unlike any other film out there, so it can be a challenging watch, but there's no denying its insightfulness and profundity.

The Bottom Line: Life may be full of pointless moments, but in that pile of pointless moments, you might find something beautiful hidden within. Just like a magician makes a giraffe disappear before your very eyes, life is but a trick. One fucking beautiful trick. La Grande Bellezza is worth a watch.

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