Jep Gambardella has seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades, but after his 65th birthday and a shock from the past, Jep looks past the nightclubs and parties to find a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty.
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Felix van Groeningen
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Journalist Jep Gambardella 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. Written by
This movie's title means "The Big Beauty", and the story is set in Rome. Of course, the city is prominently featured, so much and so long that it makes you think that "Rome" could be probably credited among the actors, at least for a supporting role, as "herself". But buyer beware (or, to appropriately use the Latin, Caveat Emptor): this is not a film about the beauty of the immortal city. In a nutshell, I would say that this movie is about the constant research of beauty and meaning in life by an aging intellectual named Jep. I am sure I won't give away too much if I say that, eventually, he will became aware that the beauty in his life is not in Rome heck, it's not even in the present: poor Jep has been searching for so long in the wrong place, and in the wrong time.
Somebody could be annoyed by the fact that nobody in the movie seems never to do any kind of work at all -- curiously enough, the only self-proclaimed hardworking man happens to be a very seriously-looking international criminal! But for most of the other characters, money looks more like a cause, than a consequence of life. Without the restraints of needs, left with no practical excuses for not being happy, they still accomplish somehow the no small feat of spoiling their lives with various forms of suffering and pain.
The story is wonderfully told both by images and dialogues. It takes some kind of "magic realism" turn towards the end but that's balanced by the steadily cynic tone of the stream of consciousness coming out from Jep, wandering around the city like Marlowe in Los Angeles. Paolo Sorrentino is a writer, too: he has written a couple of enjoyable books starring a character very similar to the one depicted in the movie, a cold bastard bon vivant with a surprisingly soft heart. Mr. Toni Servillo provides flesh, and bone, and looks, and wit for this character. Just another major performance from the greatest Italian living actor: at the end of the movie it leaves into the audience the clear idea to have actually known a real person, not just a fictional one. The whole supporting cast is great, and very well-picked. A special mention goes to Sabrina Ferilli and Carlo Verdone, two very famous actors in Italy, shining here in two supporting roles where both of them display their undisputed talent.
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