Review: The Great Beauty

Writer/director Paolo Sorrentino makes big, brassy films about all things Italian – not for everyone, or every mood – but his latest effort won this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar, so he’s doing something right.

With the richness – and frustrations – of a rambling novel, The Great Beauty doesn’t really fit a genre, although comedy-drama will have to do. The American version would probably be As Good As It Gets, with songs. It would also be awful. Perhaps if you imagine the offspring of Almodovar and Paul Thomas Anderson you’ll get some idea of its unusual timbre.

Jeb (Tony Servillo) is an ageing socialite writer who meets with his eccentric friends to talk love and art, while sometimes finding the time to actually make them. His job introduces him to circus performers, poets and conceptual artists, but they all seem like charlatans. After his 65th birthday, he starts to examine his life, and everyone else’s, deciding they’re probably charlatans too.

Sorrentino has great fun popping the pomposity of the intelligentsia, who talk of Proust and Ethiopian jazz at tacky parties, but the film’s biggest draw is its imagery – a sleepy glimpse of a ceiling that turns into a glistening sea, a plume of smoke exhaled languidly to camera, the sun striking the Colosseum. If it sounds a bit ponderous, well, maybe it is, but it’s also smart, warm-hearted and sumptuously shot, a film with a twinkle in its eye and all the time in the world to share the joy.

‘The Great Beauty’ Movie Times