TIFF 2013 Film Review: The Great Beauty

Starring: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso, Galatea Ranzi, Pamela Villoresi

Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino

Genre: Drama (Italian w/ subtitles)

Choice Quote: “The most important thing I discovered after turning 65 is that I can’t waste time doing things I don’t want to do.”

The Hype: This generation’s La Dolce Vita told through the eyes of Jep Gambardella, a famed Italian writer and “king of the high life” who, as he turns 65, examines the emptiness of his life and ways to save it.

The Reality: To start, The Great Beauty offers a visually stunning journey through Rome – from the Piazza Navona to a float along the Tiber to the orange groves and secret gardens of the Aventine Hill.

As for the story – it’s something of a delayed mid-life crisis for Jep (Servillo), the beloved novelist who celebrates his 65th birthday with a blowout bash and a hangover that includes the realization that his life, and the lives of his uber-rich, uber-snobby friends, are as hollow as the pits beneath the Colosseum. It’s what may have happened to Jay Gatsby had he lived to see 65.

Jep, along with his struggling writer protégé Romano (Verdone), navigates the labyrinth of his high life  – from Botox parties and late-night romps to an audience with the future Pope – while trying to find meaning in it all.

Add to this the news that the girl he fell in love with in his teens has died, and in her diary she admitted that Jep was the only man she ever loved. She was also the only person in Jep’s life who ever walked away from him, resisting the magnetic attraction every other beautiful person in Rome seemingly can’t escape. How his world could have been different….

Jep’s is a journey of regrets and questions of whether there’s the time, or even the ability, to atone for the time he’s wasted. His friends – publicly the toast of the town – are privately falling to pieces, and Jep knows he’s next.

With flashbacks to his charmed childhood, the intercession of a Mother Theresa-like “saint,” and the Eternal City as a brilliantly-lit backdrop, The Great Beauty is a cleverly written, strikingly filmed piece bolstered by a fantastic core cast. Definitely one to check out at this year’s TIFF.

The Verdict: There’s a reason this film was in the running for top honours at Cannes.

See it in theatres or rent it?: Theatres

Can the grandkids watch?: Too heavy for the little ones. And there are subtitles to follow.

Rating (out of 5): 4.0 kernels out of 5