Combustible Celluloid
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With: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso, Iaia Forte, Pamela Villoresi, Galatea Ranzi, Franco Graziosi, Giorgio Pasotti, Massimo Popolizio, Sonia Gessner, Anna Della Rosa, Luca Marinelli, Serena Grandi, Ivan Franek
Written by: Paolo Sorrentino
Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 142
Date: 11/15/2013

The Great Beauty (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fellini Lite

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty, an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, has some lovely, melancholy imagery and a fine lead performance by Toni Servillo (Gomorrah). But it's more or less an homage/knockoff of Federico Fellini, specifically La Dolce Vita, and I just don't get the fuss. Frankly, it's really no better or no worse than that other Fellini tribute a few years back, Rob Marshall's Nine. Both are fine, but neither offer any kind of substitute for watching an actual Fellini.

Servillo plays Jep Gambardella, who once wrote a successful novel but never followed it up. Now he writes society columns and goes to lots of parties. The movie opens at his 65th birthday bash, and after it, he begins to try to look at his life afresh. Some of it is somewhat poignant, as when Jep encounters a 103 year-old nun, but much of it just meanders, and 142 minutes is a long time to meander.

Still, Servillo's face has a lot of character, and he's interesting to watch; plus the film is filled with beautiful women, beautiful houses, beautiful parties, and beautiful conversation. The Great Beauty may not achieve exactly whatever Sorrentino hopes to achieve -- and certainly it does not achieve what Fellini achieved in La Dolce Vita -- but it's at least easy on the eyes.

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