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article imageReview: 'The Great Beauty' is only pretty on the outside Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 31, 2014 in Entertainment
‘The Great Beauty’ follows an aging man who finds himself taking stock of his fast-paced lifestyle, and turning his wit on himself and his contemporaries.
Sometimes Oscar nominations can be as puzzling as their snubs, of which there were many this year. When a film is recognized in an overall picture category, it’s expected the movie is exemplary in all of the top categories. When it’s obviously lacking in a fundamental area, one has to wonder if its other strengths outweigh its distinct weakness. The Great Beauty is a stunning, well-acted picture, but the script is a disaster.
Journalist Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) has spent decades gallivanting through Rome, seducing his way through the city’s extravagant nightlife. But after his 65th birthday and an unexpected blow, he takes a step back from the nightclubs and parties to observe the gorgeous landscape of the timeless city.
The striking cinematography is this film’s best asset. From the architecture to the culture to the chaos of the social scene, it is all visually exquisite. The opening sequence at Jep’s outrageous birthday celebration is dazzling. The intoxicated party goers crowd a rooftop, reveling in the booming beats and basking in each other’s bodies. Rapidly cutting from one merrymaker to another, the movie gives the impression that partying in Italy at any age is wild.
While Jep finds it difficult to stop carousing, he is forced to confront his mortality. Going to sleep when the sun comes up and bedding random women is losing its lustre. A few funerals, friends who haven’t aged well and others with complicated familial issues are weighing on his shoulders. The pressure to stay young and attractive is growing uglier. However, this burden is presented in a haphazard manner that makes it impossible to become invested in the narrative – however loose it is. It jumps from one scene to another with no logic, just presenting a different situation involving Jep. At its extended length of nearly two-and-a-half hours, the viewer’s mind can drift and return to realize they’ve missed nothing.
Director Paolo Sorrentino presents an admirable depiction of aging in a society that values youth, but it spends most of the time meandering aimlessly through impressive visuals – which is apparently enough for the awards committees.
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Starring: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone and Sabrina Ferilli
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