The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza)

 
(i)

 

Exceptional, mature film dazzles, offers haunting insights.
Academy AwardGolden Globe
  • Review Date: May 6, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 142 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Comments on both the humor and pathos in the act of living. Asserts that individuals engage in "performance" as a means of protecting their fragile souls. Finds purpose in the act of re-examining your life and trying to make sense of it. 

Positive role models

The hero is the self-made "king of high society." He's elegant, intelligent, and clever. Over the course of the film, he gets in touch with his humanity, his frailty, and his ability to come to terms with his life. The movie offers a stunning parody of Rome's cafe society yet finds compassion for the individuals who are a part of it. A key character, endowed with wisdom, power, and empathy, is a female dwarf.

Violence

Some disturbing scenes. A woman purposefully runs head-first into a stone wall. A child is forced to create art while in a state of uncontrollable rage. A tourist drops dead. Several off-camera deaths occur, resulting in shock and grief.

Sex

Sexuality and sensuality are primary focuses of the film. Nudity (full frontal -- both male and female), partial nudity (breasts, revealing clothing), and sexual behavior (post sexual moments, talk of sex, stripping, sexual language) are woven throughout. No intercourse is shown. 

Language

Swearing and sexual dialogue in many scenes: "bastard," "pain in the ass," "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "screw you," "badass," "balls," "bitch." 

Consumerism

Some Italian products are occasionally visible (i.e., Martini, Peroni).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and smoking occur throughout the film. Alcohol fuels the behavior at many of the wild parties depicted, with some drunkenness and abandon. The lead character is shown with a cigarette and alcoholic beverages in scene after scene. In one extended sequence, party-goers snort cocaine. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty (in Italian with English subtitles) is an exceptional film for mature audiences, set among the wealthiest citizens of Rome. In a movie in which every image is magic, Paolo Sorrentino captures the wild escapades, the devastating personal tragedies, and the profundities of the "examined life." Nudity (both partial and full frontal -- and lots of it), sexuality, and profanity, along with alcohol and substance abuse, all contribute to the portrait the writer/director paints of one man at the age of 65 and the society in which he lives. Some scenes may disturb even the most sophisticated audiences (a woman purposefully runs head-first into a stone wall; a young girl is forced to create "art" while in a state of utter hysteria; a saintly nun pushes herself to extremes of physical punishment). Language includes "s--t," "f--k," "bastard," "screw," "p---y," and "ass."  

What's the story?

Modern-day Rome is the setting for Paolo Sorrentino's THE GREAT BEAUTY, the 2013 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language film. Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo, in a magnificent performance) is celebrating his 65th birthday, surrounded by a diverse assortment of his friends and colleagues. The party is non-stop, a frenzied mixture of sensuality and alcohol-infused gaiety. It seems to go on forever, a wild testament to the life Jep leads. It's been 40 years since he published his successful novel -- his only novel -- but he is, in his own words, "the king of the high life" and, until now, he's accepted that role. But a dizzying array of people and events lays siege to him after his landmark birthday. His encounters with death, long-lost friends, a new love, and art itself (both grotesque and resplendent) find him looking at his world with more questions than answers. It's an exhilarating journey that can't help but bring profound change or acceptance.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Beautiful, original, eccentric, monstrous at times, and always unexpected, The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) carries a willing audience into the gloriousness of Rome -- and into the hearts of a bizarre gathering of pretenders, misfits, snobs, and voyeurs. Sometimes mocking, sometimes surprising us with its compassion, the film defies convention. Each frame is a thing of beauty; Rome fills the screen with its living art -- its architecture, its religious core, its outcasts, and, first and foremost, its art. As we travel with him, Jep becomes a thing of beauty as well -- flawed, self-absorbed, and yet radiant, insightful, and humane.

Not a movie for everyone, certainly not for young kids, the irony here is that while Jep never found "The Great Beauty" he was looking for, Paolo Sorrentino has found his with a camera.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the many events in The Great Beauty (parties, weddings, funerals, etc.) How do the filmmakers use these events to deepen our understanding of the characters?

  • This movie is a prime example of filmmaking as an "art form." What makes a movie "artistic"? What other films have you seen that you believe are works of art? Why?

  • What is "The Great Beauty" of this film's title? From what do you think Jep was reading at the movie's end?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 15, 2013
DVD release date:March 25, 2014
Cast:Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli
Director:Paolo Sorrentino
Studio:Indigo Film
Genre:Drama
Run time:142 minutes
MPAA rating:NR
Awards:Academy Award, Golden Globe

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