The Great Beauty


The Great Beauty

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 130


Audience Score

User Ratings: 15,427
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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 extravagant nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome in all its glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. (c) Janus


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Critic Reviews for The Great Beauty

All Critics (130) | Top Critics (33) | Fresh (118) | Rotten (12)

  • 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.

    Jan 31, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jan 30, 2014 | Full Review…
  • A riotous film that finds depth, clarity and refreshment in even the shallowest of pools.

    Jan 30, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jan 16, 2014 | Rating: A | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Though there's precious little drama, Sorrentino's skills as an image-maker are indisputable.

    Jan 8, 2014 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jan 2, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for The Great Beauty

  • Mar 22, 2014
    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, <i>The Great Beauty</i> 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.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 01, 2014
    Woah, hold on now, I don't know about "great", because this film isn't even close to an "8 1/2", if you will. ...Classic European art film buffs probably get that, and considering how lame it is, the dorks are probably the only ones who would find it amusing if they got it. Yeah, the joke there is that this film is almost unsubtly influenced by the 1963 Italian classic by Federico Fellini "8 1/2", and not that this film isn't even an "8 1/2", because, make no mistake, "8 1/2" is at least better than this. Yeah, let me cool my jets for a second, because I've got to emphasize that I'm not exactly crazy about "8 1/2" before I start sounding too pretentious, although it might not help, becuase it's hard to watch an art film like this and not look a little bit hipster. Those blasted Woody Allen glasses that Toni Servillo busts out from time to time don't exactly help, nor does the fact that this is a film by Paolo Sorrentino. I don't know about you guys, but this film is coming out a little too quickly after "This Must Be the Place" for me to come down from all of Sorrentino's Italian hipsterisms, and "This Must Be the Place" wasn't even in Italian, so strap in, folks, because things are about to get all kinds of snobby. Yeah, I'd be more cool with that if the film was even remotely close to as great as its title says it is, although I must give credit to the strengths... of which there are probably around "8 1/2" or something (I'll shut up now; well, after the following review). It's debatable if this film is as beautifully shot as many are saying it is, because for me, Luca Bigazzi's cinematographic efforts are neither all that unique or all that consistent in high quality, although I feel that we can all agree that this film's visual style is mighty sharp through and through, rarely abating on sharp definition, and often nailing beautifully rich plays on bouncing coloration and piercing lighting over the lens of cameras that further draw you in with some stylish filming tricks, in addition to interesting images to capture. The film is pretty heavily driven by its visuals, and far too many of them are far too abstract for their own good, but more than that, they're pretty colorful, maybe not to where they can compensate for the entertainment value lost by all of the dully dry storytelling, but decidedly to where you get plenty of genuinely unique eye candy, polished by the fine visual style and sometimes actually pretty well-utilized by directorial highlights. Artistically overblown and, if you will, abstractionistically misguided, when not simply bone-dry, Paolo Sorrentino's directorial missteps are glaring and plentiful, but his strengths come in broad waves that help in washing the final product to the brink of decency, playing with the fine visual style and Lele Marchitelli's underused, but richly diverse, tastefully unique and all around remarkably haunting score with enough style and substance to legitimately entertain at times, perhaps even resonate. There's not much substance to draw on in this do-little art drama, but when there is, all of that subtle style and thoughtful storytelling that guide the final product into mediocrity under the weight of questionable overambition pay off, though not without the help of a pretty worthy cast. There's hardly enough material for the film itself to work with, nevermind the performers, who still play significant roles in almost saving the film, at least as decent, for most everyone has his or her own distinct brand of charisma, with leading man Toni Servillo's being particularly exuberant, broken up by some subtle layering that graces this not-so character-driven meditation with some sense of humanity. There's just not enough of this depth going around, and even within the underwritten Servillo, it's limited something fierce, yet whether it be found within the performances or whatever, it's there, and the die-hard patient seeking it may find enough to cling onto for the final product to evade mediocrity. For me, however, patience lasts for only so long before the final product falls more-or-less flat, having its share of intrigue, but losing too much in the way of engagement value through questionable pacing, alone. It might be too soon to boast about the aspect that ultimately nudges the final product into mediocrity, but what ultimately breaks this questionably structured, but still very nearly decent misfire is, of course, the simple issue of dullness, for when Paolo Sorrentino runs out of material momentum to drive with thoughtful storytelling, near-painfully bland dry spells ensue and distance you too much from the bizarre aspects that could have perhaps been fun behind more lively storytelling, and make no bones about it, Sorrentino runs out of material a lot. All but flirting with the two-and-a-half mark with its running time, this film is just way too long, bloated with repetitious, maybe even monotonous meanderings in material and filler, and not even giving you the common courtesy of taking out nearly as much time as it probably should for the sake of exposition. To be so long, the film doesn't tell you a whole lot, at least about its characters, intentionally being more driven by unconventional narrative structuring than actual gradual characterization, sure, but still coming off as seriously undercooked even in its own minimalist context, to where you neither get a firm enough feel for the characters to get all that invested, nor get enough of a sense of progression for the focal shifts to feel organic. I don't know if there are that many focal layers to this, in many ways, downright unfocused mess, yet all of the subtle set pieces and other aspects that bloat the final product tend to jar you from narrative point to narrative point, and convolute things almost as much as inconsistencies in storytelling styles. I constantly badger this film for being too abstract for its own good, but this isn't something like "Upstream Color", being, as a matter of fact, rather unique in its alternations between traditionalist and offbeat storytelling, which I would be more willing to go with if the offbeat storytelling aspects didn't break a normal, actually focused structure so jarringly, and with an artistic license whose effectiveness quickly expires, due to its, quite frankly, being just too blasted bizarre. Loaded with random visuals and set pieces, only so many of which are actually grounded, much less relevant to substance, however thin it may be, this film, while not completely out there, is still pretty abstract, and it's only a matter of time before all of the abstractionism mixes with the frequently limp, undeveloped and incoherent storytelling and leaves the film to tumble out as essentially unfocused, with no much more than unfulfilled artistic ambitions that could have at least charmed the final product into decency if the filmmakers didn't feel kind of self-congratulatory in their misguided endeavors. I don't know if the film is out-and-out pretentious, but it certainly asks for more investment than it's willing to prove worthy of, being overblown with questionable artistic attributes and offbeat storytelling, and simultaneously lazy with other areas of storytelling, until the final product finds itself limping along, eventually collapsing, at least with good lucks and some effective moments, as, well, kind of mediocre. In conclusion, lovely cinematography compliments colorful visuals, while directorial highlights and decent performances endear enough to bring the final product to the brink of decency, ultimately lost by the dulling atmospheric dry spells that give you too much of an opportunity to meditate upon the aimless dragging, underdevelopment, focal and stylistic unevenness, and unfocused abstractionism which, behind a somewhat pretentious feel to direction, render Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty" a great misfire in artistic ambition that, for all its strengths, falls flat. 2.25/5 - Mediocre
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Feb 28, 2014
    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-
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Feb 17, 2014
    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.
    Thomas B Super Reviewer

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