‘The Great Beauty’ is too long but worth savoring

Toni Servillo plays an aging playboy in "The Great Beautiy." Credit: Janus Films
Toni Servillo plays an aging playboy in “The Great Beautiy.”
Credit: Janus Films

‘The Great Beauty’
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Stars: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

The Italian export “The Great Beauty” has been compared to Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” in which a jaded journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) allowed himself to be sucked into Rome’ “good life” (i.e., the rich, bored and hedonistic). Indeed, this could be a modernized, three-decades-later sequel. Unfailingly chill and smirking, Jep (Toni Servillo), we’re told, once wrote a fantastic book. He’s been living off the acclaim for years, occasionally doing puff piece interviews but mostly lounging in his sleek bachelor pad, staying out till dawn dancing to techno on rooftops. He’s 65.

Jep worries about the age thing, but not that much. Throughout, friends decamp, either from his aging jet set circle or from Rome itself. Jep does little but go to ridiculous art shows that are (yes) Fellini-esque. Occasionally he flashes back to the girl that got away — three or four decades ago.

That’s pretty much it for plot: Jep wandering through a life of desiccated decadence, one that’s no longer much fun but is, at least, not entirely boring. If it’s a “La Dolce Vita” sequel where all the good parties are over, it’s also a version of the 1960s Cuban film “Memories of Underdevelopment” minus the politics. In that classic, an aging playboy’s slow realization that he’s too old to be horsing around with young hotties is exacerbated by him doing it in post-Bay of Pigs Havana.

Jep has no major realization, and only a few minor ones. It still runs 2 ½ hours. It is, to be frank, a bit long. The over-length isn’t unnecessary — this is a lush film meant to be savored — but even the intentional redundancies start to feel redundant.

The director, Paolo Sorrentino, is a keyed-up director who loves roaming (or speeding) camerawork. He also loves stasis. He makes films about grotesques trapped in the persona they’ve erected. In “Il Divo,” he made Servillo — who, as here, has a great, decaying look — to look like notorious Italian politician Giulio Andreotti, who really does, as in the film, resemble Droopy Dog. In the America-set “This Must Be the Place,” Sorrentino put Sean Penn in the guise of a perpetually tired and depressed Robert Smith.

In “The Great Beauty,” the prison isn’t so much the person but Rome itself, and the life it allows one to live. The beauty is endless, but it’s also a tomb. Those who stay there live a kind of living death.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Gunther from 'Friends' talks Central Perk

We spoke with Gunther (James Michael Tyler) at the preview for new pop-up Central Perk, based on the cafe in "Friends."

Local

Central Perk opens in SoHo

Central Perk, of "Friends" fame, is giving out free coffee in SoHo through Oct. 18.

National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Music

FREEMAN makes Freeman a free man from Ween

For nearly 30 years, Aaron Freeman was known endearingly to his listeners as Gene Ween. But with "FREEMAN," he makes it clear that he's gone somewhere else.

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."