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The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty (2013)

tomatometer

91

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 111
Fresh: 101 | Rotten: 10

Dazzlingly ambitious, beautifully filmed, and thoroughly enthralling, The Great Beauty offers virtuoso filmmaking from writer/director Paolo Sorrentino.

93

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Critic Reviews: 30
Fresh: 28 | Rotten: 2

Dazzlingly ambitious, beautifully filmed, and thoroughly enthralling, The Great Beauty offers virtuoso filmmaking from writer/director Paolo Sorrentino.

audience

79

liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 13,440

My Rating

Movie Info

Journalist Jep Gambardella (the dazzling Toni Servillo, Il divo and Gomorrah) has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city's literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the

Unrated,

Drama, Comedy

Paolo Sorrentino

Mar 25, 2014

$2.9M

Janus Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (111) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (101) | Rotten (10) | DVD (1)

The Great Beauty is an utterly ravishing portrait of listless luxuriance, a fantasy of decadent wealth and beauty that evokes Fellini's La Dolce Vita by way of Baz Luhrmann.

January 31, 2014 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Celebrating Rome in all its decay, this florid comedy by Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo, This Must Be the Place) opens with a hyperbolically gaudy party honoring a celebrity journalist on his 65th birthday.

January 30, 2014 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A riotous film that finds depth, clarity and refreshment in even the shallowest of pools.

January 30, 2014 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Throughout the film, Sorrentino delivers gorgeous images, crazy images, startling and sexy and serene images; it's a visual bath of sorts - the great beauty is everywhere, Jep (and we) just have to be open to it.

January 16, 2014 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Though there's precious little drama, Sorrentino's skills as an image-maker are indisputable.

January 8, 2014 Full Review Source: L.A. Weekly
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a beauty, all right. It's more a style show than a deep philosophical treatise, but with surfaces this sleek and faces this interesting, I'll take style over substance any day.

January 2, 2014 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Exceptional, mature film dazzles, offers haunting insights.

May 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

"The Great Beauty" is a great romance: a man and a city and a love that cannot be consummated but which will consume you surely. Somewhere, Baz Luhrmann weeps.

April 4, 2014 Full Review Source: Newcity
Newcity

If it sounds a bit ponderous, well, maybe it is, but it's also smart, warm-hearted and sumptuously shot.

March 27, 2014 Full Review Source: Flicks.co.nz
Flicks.co.nz

'The Great Beauty' is certainly striking, but too often what it's striking are poses.

March 10, 2014 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

It's La Dolce Vita for the 21st century, of course. But, more than that, it's the rare work that not only tips its hat to a masterpiece but sort of shockingly tops it.

March 5, 2014 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A mysterious, sensual prism through which to view our own shortcomings and longings.

March 4, 2014 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

The Great Beauty boils over with shapeless disdain, aimed everywhere but where it should be

March 2, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

As a parody of Italian cinema, it's tedious. Except we're supposed to be taking this seriously. As if.

March 2, 2014 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

I don't know that I've ever seen a film in which the visual glory on the screen was so at odds with the philosophy evident in the screenplay.

February 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

The Great Beauty (or, more wonderfully, La Grande Bellezza) is a memory play, a meditation on life, a celebration of the incidentals that make it joyous and more.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Canada.com
Canada.com

Ah, to be wealthy, gorgeous and dead inside in Rome!

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Madison Movie
Madison Movie

For those of us who spend most of our time still dealing with rent and health care, it is a two-hour journey into ideas and emotions we only wish there were time to consider. That's a reason to go to the movies.

February 17, 2014 Full Review Source: culturevulture.net
culturevulture.net

The Great Beauty will become one of those movies that will be discussed over and over again in future college courses.

February 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Austin American-Statesman
Austin American-Statesman

Wild set-pieces and rueful observations are the stock in trade of this Italian film by one of the modern masters of cinema, Paolo Sorrentino.

February 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

2 hours and 20 minutes of my life that I'll never get back.

February 9, 2014 Full Review Source: Three Movie Buffs
Three Movie Buffs

There's little to discover in Paolo Sorrentino's satiric vision of Rome, except perhaps, that some cities just look better than others while entertaining themselves to hell.

February 8, 2014 Full Review Source: PopMatters
PopMatters

Sorrentino's film may flit between vignettes of extravagance and eccentricity, but more is always toiling underneath.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: FILMINK (Australia)
FILMINK (Australia)

With inevitable debt to Fellini, Sorrentino's nods as reverential as they are wry.

February 6, 2014 Full Review Source: National Post
National Post

I can't remember when a film last gave me such a surge of pure pleasure -- no, outright euphoria -- as The Great Beauty.

February 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

"...a sumptuous elegy."

January 31, 2014 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm
LarsenOnFilm

Audience Reviews for The Great Beauty

An Italian socialite, depressed with the high life, seeks moving aesthetic expression.
So heavily influenced by Fellini is this film that I was tongue-in-cheek surprised that it was directed by Paul Sorrentino, The Great Beauty is neo-realism at its best. The beautiful shots of Jep staring at the giraffe, the party sequences, the crazy artists who dye their pubic hair red and shave the hammer and sickle into it, the luxuriant shots of The Eternal City -- all these threads create a hypnotic fabric for the film. Toni Servillo's Jep embodies artistic ennui at its most pretentious and its most human, and the film's story is slight and subtle but still captivating.
Overall, this is not the "next step on Fellini's road," but its a fitting homage.
March 22, 2014
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

In the Eternal City, a.k.a. Rome, Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) has served as its unofficial emcee for years. The literary magazine writer has been coasting for years, living off the prestige and fame from an international hit novel he wrote in his twenties. Now at the age of 65, Jep has come to the conclusion that his life has been lacking the beauty he has sought. All the parties, the late nights, and the fast living have caught up with him. Jep explores the city and its peculiar inhabitants to examine his own life.

It's impossible to watch The Great Beauty without conjuring images of the great director Fellini. It certainly brings to mind a modern La Dolce Vita. There's a heightened sense of reality mingling with the surreal, the lives of the rich socialites stepping into the reaches of irony-free satire. At a small party, one rich lady compliments the jazz playing, and another lady says, "The only jazz scene worth listening to today is Ethiopian jazz." I burst out laughing harder than I have all year. These are people living privileged lives that have lost their tenuous grasp on reality, unaware that they have become caricatures. Their silly ennui has consumed their perspectives. Like Fellini, the movie explores a cloistered world of the Roman elite and their tragicomic absurdities with a touch of the surreal and meditative. I can't so much pinpoint a clear plot or structure that guides the film, but there are numerous moments, images, scenes that standout in my memory. A private Botox party is played as a zany spiritual gathering where applicants take waiting numbers and a doctor whisper about the great journey they are on together, and then injects botulism into your face. Nuns are everywhere, which shouldn't be a surprise, but the sight of nuns just randomly populating scenes lends to the surreal nature. Then there's the 104-year-old nun positioned to be a saint. She looks like a mummy, prefers to sleep on a floor of cardboard, and her mind is still capable of great insight. The ancient nun manages to thematically sum up the film's interests in beauty, culture, religion, remembrance, and death.

The relaxed nature of the film and the abstract plot, with little sense of linear trajectory, will certainly test the patience of several moviegoers. At my theater, after twenty minutes several middle-aged couples walked out, muttering, "This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen." I don't know what these people were expecting when they walked into a 140-minute Italian film, but there declaration is flat-out wrong. I mean, these people probably haven't even seen InAPPropriate Comedy (cheap shot, achieved). The opening involves the death of a Japanese tourist, and then it switches over to a raucous rooftop party that rivals what we saw in last summer's Great Gatsby. This is a slow movie but it is slow with purpose, if that makes sense. Jep's life for so long has been about the party scene, the dulling of the senses, the rush of adrenaline and alcohol. After his sixty-fifth birthday, he's decided he has no more time to chase after momentary thrills. The journey that follows is mostly a collection of anecdotes and ideas, but many of them have strong staying power. The most notable story is a budding romance he forms with Ramona (Sabrina Ferilli), a 40-year-old stripper with no illusions about who she is. Their relationship is sweet and it ends abruptly, far too soon than a viewer would wish. I know if Hollywood ever remade an English version of this film, they'd structure the whole movie around this relationship. I suppose another benefit of a free-floating, stream of consciousness style plot is that few storylines overstay their welcome.

Jep has come to a turning point, a stark realization that his life is empty. A nice reminder of this notion, as well as a haunting "what could have been" review, is when the husband to an old girlfriend seeks him out. She has recently died and inside her diary, she writes passionately about Jep from their romance way back when they were teenagers. She only has a passing remark for her husband of 30-some years, and it rips the poor man apart. She was always hung up on Jep, always thinking about what might have been, the path not taken, and this defined her intimately. For the first time since he was young, Jep is looking at the world with different eyes and a hunger that exceeds Earthly pleasures. His friends all suffer from the doubt that they've wasted their time, that they were never good enough, and they accept their defeat and leave Rome one by one. One man, so humbled, doesn't even want to bring any furniture with him, so he leaves it all behind. The only thing he's taking with him is the years of regret, apparently. There's a nice moment when he's reiterating the story of his first kiss to Ramona, which also involves this now deceased woman. He can't remember what she said to draw him, and the look of disappointment at his failing memory, at being unable to relive a moment that meant so much to him so long ago, it crushes him. Who knows how long Jep had held onto that memory as a source of respite. Jep is examining his life's disappointments and misanthropy but it may already be too late.

There are plenty of messages and points of contemplation throughout the film, but the major theme seems to be as simple as, "Stop and smell the roses," And yet, that doesn't make the film less engaging and responsive. Jep is asked why he never wrote another book after his great success. There look to be a number of reasons, but he confesses he was waiting to be inspired again by the titular Great Beauty. Naturally, by this point, we and Jep have come to realize that waiting for beauty is foolish when it is all around us at any moment (especially in Rome). Most of Jep's adult life has been consumed with social frivolities and passing pleasures, but only now does he seem to stop and fully appreciate his surroundings and his company, naturally, when his friends are departing. It's a universal theme and one that hasn't gotten old and the film's handling is anything but sop-headed sentimentalism. It even ties back to the opening, where the Japanese tourist keels over dead. The man is so busy trying to document his vacation rather than experience it, and in the end, it's all for what?

Like Jep, we too will fall in love with Rome as he strolls around it. Gloriously photographed, it's a treat to experience the major works of art in Rome, so much so that it may stir your passions to see them in person. Even as the plot becomes lugubrious, you don't mind because of how lovely Rome and its facilities look. Characters doing little and ruminating in Kansas may get boring, but characters doing little and ruminating in Rome, well at least that's scenery worth watching.

I've read many differing interpretations of the film and its messages, the impact of different scenes and which hit hardest, and it reminds me what good art is meant to do; it's meant to inspire us, entreat us, but also stir us to engage with it, and The Great Beauty does just that. It's a bawdy, beautiful, and entertaining film but one that also takes its time, luxuriates in atmosphere, and asks the audience to ponder as Jep does about regret, lost opportunities, and the contradictions of happiness. The surreal touches can provide plenty of laughs, but it's the smaller appreciation of side characters, ideas, and the contrasts that provide more intellectual payoffs. The film is far more free-floating and meditative than American audiences are used to, but unlike, say the works of Terrence Malick, I felt like I could celebrate the absurdities and joys of life along with the people onscreen. It's existential without being laboriously pretentious, and the comedy and stylish flourishes help anchor the entertainment. The Great Beauty is a beguiling movie that admittedly could have been chopped down from its 140-minute running time. If you're a fan of Fellini, or art history, then this is a must-see. For others, I'd advise giving this a try, though don't be surprised if it takes a while to grow on you with its ponderous nature.

Nate's Grade: A-
February 28, 2014
boxman
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

Revel in the art of the craft and in the occasional sublime monologue to stave off the feeling that maybe this whole thing is entirely as hollow as so many of the characters on display. Full review later.
February 17, 2014
TomBowler
Thomas Bowler

Super Reviewer

After I recovered from initial "Hey, this is just Fellini in color" I realized that Fellini is Fellini because he's Italian, as is Sorrentino and there is just no escaping the beauty that is Rome. That said, this is a profound look at what early success means in the arts, especially the literary arts: can you ever top it? Can you ever see the world fresh, or is it always through the glasses of the previous work that made you? Or, as the character himself says, "I was waiting for the great beauty" and in the meantime I decided to have a party, I guess. I especially liked the mysterious man upstairs who (spoiler alert) turns out to be a high class crook,but who cried out as he is being taken away, "I work hard so bums like you can just party" or something like that. It's an interesting take on how the money manipulation crowd sees artists. Only nit-pick: I could have used a smaller dose of the nun/saint. I want to see it again.
January 28, 2014
Bathsheba Monk
Bathsheba Monk

Super Reviewer

    1. Jep Gambardella: We're all on the brink of despair.
    – Submitted by Abner H (7 months ago)
    1. Jep Gambardella: What job you do?
    2. Orietta: Me? I'm rich.
    3. Jep Gambardella: Great job.
    – Submitted by Abner H (7 months ago)
    1. Ramona: That girl was crying.
    2. Jep Gambardella: Nonsense! That girl earns millions!
    – Submitted by Abner H (7 months ago)
    1. Jep Gambardella: I was looking for the great beauty, but... I didn't find it!
    – Submitted by Abner H (7 months ago)
View all quotes (4)

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Foreign Titles

  • Die grosse Schoonheit (DE)
  • The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) (UK)
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