Silvio Berlusconi is the role Toni Servillo was born to play – but Paulo Sorrentino’s dreamlike biopic is perhaps too lenient to the grisly plutocrat
His face is waxy and frozen, topped with an ebony hair-transplant and split with a rictus grin, like the Joker. Italy’s grisly premier plutocrat Silvio Berlusconi is the part Toni Servillo was born to play, maybe the part that all his previous roles for director Paolo Sorrentino have been leading up to. There’s a prototypical sliver of Silvio in the exiled mob functionary Titta in Consequences of Love (2004), the enigmatic mandarin Giulio Andreotti in Il Divo (2008) and especially the disillusioned Roman journalist and boulevardier Jep in La Grande Bellezza (2015). Servillo is always good at the fathomless ennui of the lion in winter, the droll and mordant self-knowledge of someone sadly savouring the various status-trappings of age and male power that he has – almost – ceased to care about.
This is in fact more like La Grande Brutezza, the great ugliness born of cocaine, cynicism and prostitute addiction. Berlusconi is shown at first out of power and exhausted in the mid 00s, depressed in a disagreeable new state of political opposition, and having to strain every sinew to avoid thinking about the fact that he is 70 years old. Yet in 2008, some coalitionist fancy footwork puts Silvio back in office as prime minister, and the calamitous L’Aquila earthquake one year later, which killed more than 300 people due to poor building regulations, gives him the opportunity for pointless, histrionic grandstanding. This was his political masterpiece of fatuous and operatic self-pity.
Loro review – Sorrentino steps into Berlusconi's heart of darkness