By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
I’ve been meaning to watch Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo for what seems like half a decade now (and still do). Then I instead got a hold of a copy of his weird, beautiful This Must Be the Place. That one became one of my favorite movies of 2011.
This year sees another of his cross my path on the way to Oscar. I’ll get to you someday Il Divo, I promise!
La Grande Belleza (The Great Beauty) stars Toni Servillo as an author who built his reputation on one novel, then went on to become the party king of Rome. Now, on his 65th birthday, he finds himself disillusioned at the vapid decadence around him, and searching for inspiration to write once more.
The epic, surreal, gorgeous spinning, tracking shot beginning sequence of the film sets the stage for what is to follow in a bravura manner. The Great Beauty is often a frenetic, random visual feast, with Sorrentino throwing every idea he has at the well to see what sticks, and nearly all of it sticks.
The film cuts between Servillo’s struggle with disillusionment and aging and unexplained vignettes that serve to bring Rome vibrantly to life, a character all its own. There’s also an undercurrent of cutting, hilarious social commentary at play here, especially regarding what has become of the socialist dreamers of the 1960s and 70s that can be reflected on many a culture worldwide.
Some more unfortunate than others.
Servillo proves to be the ideal actor for this protagonist, displaying a world-weary cynicism without ever losing his cool charm… until he does, which makes it all the more affecting. And the ending is perfect, showing that this meandering film knew were it was going all along, with force.
While the film skewers pretension, it also enjoys toeing the line with it, making it difficult to tell if some of the overstuffed, self-conscious dialogue is a satire of pretension or just, well, pretentious. Also, the movie certainly does drag at points, getting a bit repetitive see-sawing between that satire and Servillo’s existential ennui, even if the ending does tie it all together nicely.
The Great Beauty is an ode to Rome and the many great films it’s inspired. It’s also often one of the most deliriously engaging, gorgeously rendered spectacles of the year.
Take a Drink: every time someone’s called a ‘rascal’
Take a Drink: whenever writing or literature are mentioned
Take a Drink: for each new, crazy camera angle
Do a Shot: for when shit really gets bizarre (so, for every modern art performance)
Do a Shot: for strange animal moments