An old man wanders around Rome, contemplating the decadence of his life and that of his wealthy acquaintances. Nuns caper through formal gardens. A Japanese tourist collapses at a scenic overlook. A creepy nun laughs. At a party, a bored actress — who might become a novelist — declares, “In this shitty country there are never any good roles for women.” (With this snide observation, The Great Beauty thinks it has properly recused itself from having any, too.) At a swanky strip club, our hero, 65-year-old Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo: Gomorrah), commiserates with another miserable old fuck over how pathetic the 40something stripper they’re observing is. Can’t someone find her a husband, or something? Always, there is vaguely ecclesiastical singing. Or maybe it’s light-operatic? Whatever it is, it fits right in with filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino’s parody of Italian cinema. What’s that? We’re supposed to take this seriously? As if. A little girl runs screaming at an enormous white canvas and throws paint on it; she makes millions. Jep complains to his housekeeper about how he doesn’t know how to cope with mornings now that he is considering giving up partying. Will he give up attending performance art and botox orgies? He shows up at such events because he is a journalist (we’re told) and he’s presumably going to write about them. But journalism for him appears to be primarily a distant rumor. Mostly he rolls his eyes — literally and metaphorically — at it all. He’s jaded, you see. Such a tragedy for him, I’m sure.
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