The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty ★★★½

The protagonist here is ridiculous—he wrote a brilliant novel many years ago, and despite having fruitlessly whiled away the ensuing decades partying among the privileged in Roman night life, he's still the most astute, the most magnetic, the most authentic, the most sexually successful of his kind in the whole of Rome, seemingly. He's what everyone wants or wants to be, and yet for some reason he's still completely disaffected and searching for some ineffable answer to his vaguely defined malaise. High class problems! The premise tested my patience many times, but director Paolo Sorrentino is still able to make a meal from these meager conceptual scraps. He's helped enormously by the gorgeous soundtrack, the wildly vibrant photography, both of which transform Rome into some kind of Never Never Land for the wealthy in mid-life, and of course by the assured charisma of Toni Servillo, a maestro of facial expressiveness. The end product is shallower than it thinks, but just as rapturous as it aspires to be.

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