Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty, Il Divo) gathers some heavy hitters for Youth, lining up Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in lead roles with support from the always excellent Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, Prisoners), Rachel Weisz (The Mummy, The Fountain) with cameos from Paloma Faith (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, St. Trinian’s) and Jane Fonda.
The story, well, such that it is, center’s around Fred Ballinger, Caine, a retired composer and conductor on holiday with his film-making friend Mick Boyle, Keitel, in the Alps. A representative of the Queen of England arrives one day to ask Fred to conduct an orchestra for Prince Philip’s birthday, something he’s reluctant to do. Meanwhile his friend Mick is trying to finish his latest script, the film he believes will be his last, greatest film, when his leading lady, Fonda, turns up at the hotel to say she won’t do it.
But that’s only half the story, or technically a quarter. You see I could quite easily write the more for Keitel’s character or the same for Weisz’s or Dano’s. And whilst that sounds like a good thing, it just doesn’t quite work. You get fragments of each and you aren’t immersed into anyone’s, bar Caine’s, with any great depth, though you want to be.
The film is beautifully shot by Sorrentino, it reminded me a lot of a Wes Anderson movie, which may have had something to do with the hotel which, at times, looked not that dissimilar to The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The camera flows, the Alps are stunning and the imagery of old naked people in sauna’s or getting out of pools is an interesting contrast. There are random shots thrown in, at least they felt random to me, I struggled to know what a lot of the shots where for? Why was I seeing them? They didn’t move the film on, they just seemed to ‘be’. That’s not a criticism necessarily, I think this is the sort of film you have to see a few times to really understand.
Caine and Keitel are brilliant, as you’d expect and Weisz shows she is more than capable of holding her own amongst these two veterans of the acting world. Dano is perhaps a little underused but it’s a role we’re used to seeing him in and he performs it well as usual. It’s a similar story with Jane Fonda, a great mini-performance, something we know she can do.
In summary then, visually stunning, moving, funny at times and surreal at others. I can’t lie and say I got every single reference, for instance: I’ve no idea why Diego Maradona (played by Roly Serrano) was at the hotel and occasionally popped up, still, it was fun when he did.