The Great Beauty / La Grande Bellezza
Jep Gambardella is an author with one great novel under his belt and lifetime of never living up to expectations ever since. Not that he isn’t successful in doing puff pieces for magazines and reigning over a coterie of sycophants and hangers-on. The great actor, Tony Servillo gives Jep a knowing cleverness, charm and enough honesty in his self-loathing to make him empathetic and likeable. Paolo Servino’s The Great Beauty is a La Dolce Vita for 21st century Rome. Unlike the frenetic and desperate decadence of Mastroianni’s Marcello Rubini, Jep’s is gentler – like an old well-fitted suit. There’s a similar world of well-heeled fashionistas and hipsters, but nothing seems new any more. Even the wildly hilarious send-up of a particularly egregious example of contemporary performance art shows the same old pretentions of (con) artists. Jep’s not only our guide through this world, but part of it too. Like a modern-day Virgil, Jep takes us through his own particular hell – a real world of cynicism and meaninglessness. It’s an old story, but it’s still timely.
Originally published in EL Magazine, August 2014