'The Great Beauty': The film's melancholy and partying both feel forced

( Unrated ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

'The Great Beauty' is directed by Paolo Sorrentino of 'This Must Be the Place.'

Janus Films
'The Great Beauty'

The Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino has become a darling of the international cinema circuit for such movies as “Il Divo,” his helter-skelter portrait of politician Giulio Andreotti, and “This Must Be the Place,” starring Sean Penn as a mumbly, scraggly rock star. I found both movies, in their very different ways, borderline unwatchable – all posturing, little substance. His latest opus, “The Great Beauty,” Italy’s submission for the foreign language Oscar, is a kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria starring Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella, a famous journalist living lavishly in a Rome that seems to feature at least one bacchanal per evening, with the Coliseum often serving as a backdrop.

Sorrentino has set out to out-Fellini Fellini. There are so many gaping mouths, splayed limbs, and gargoyle grins in this film that Fellini’s heirs should sue. Gambardella, who wrote a celebrated novel, his only one, years before, is turning 65. This puts him in a ruminative mood, which means he doesn’t always join the conga line. The melancholy in this film is just as trumped up as the frenzy. Grade: C- (Unrated.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.