THE GREAT BEAUTY – Review by Susan Granger

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Visually dazzling, Paolo Sorrentino’s Golden Globe-winning film is an extravagant odyssey through Rome, ostensibly examining the hedonistic lifestyle of Jep Gambardella, an acclaimed writer. Fittingly, his story begins at a bacchanal celebrating his 65th birthday. With hundreds of revelers romping around him, Jep confronts not only the camera but also his squandered years, devoted to being the sort of charming socialite who not only could throw the best parties but who could ruin other people’s parties at will. Read on>>

Forty years ago, Jep wrote a novel, “The Human Apparatus.” He’s lived on his literary laurels ever since, scribbling superficial celebrity profiles. “Rome makes you waste a lot of time,” he explains. Dwelling in a sumptuous flat that overlooks the Coliseum, he surrounds himself with friends and admirers. Accompanied by a middle-aged stripper, Ramona (Sabrina Ferilli), he attends fashionable events with the upper bourgeoisie, strolls along the banks of the Tiber, meanders through deserted palazzos and impertinently questions his mysterious upstairs neighbor – until, one day, a stranger appears on his doorstep, introducing himself as the widower of the woman who was Jep’s first true love. Together, they commiserate about her passing as Jep is overwhelmed by nostalgia, evoking the film’s opening quote from Louis-Ferdinand Celine: “Our journey is entirely imaginary. That is its strength.”

Utilizing thematic imagery that evokes fond memories of Fellini’s “La Dolce Vida” and “Roma,” along with Antonioni’s “La Notte,” it’s written by Umberto Contarello and director Paolo Sorrentino, who works once again with his charismatic “Il Divo” star Toni Serbillo, to create a pulsating, satirical portrait of a suave, world-weary journalist searching for his long-lost idealism while experiencing the exquisite sights and sounds of the glorious Eternal City, distinctively depicted by cinematographer Luca Bigazzi. Indelibly amusing episodes include a less-than-spiritual visit from Sister Maria (Sonia Gessner), a recipe-obsessed Cardinal (Roberto Herlitzka), and slavish devotion to a Botox technician.

In Italian with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Great Beauty” is an elegant, existentially enigmatic 8, a magnificent meditation on opulence and decadence.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.