Youth provides the world with another Michael Caine-anchored double act of sheer class. He and Harvey Keitel do a lot of the heavy lifting in Paolo Sorrentino’s follow-up to 2014’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty.
But unlike Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Youth shows great ambition in attempting a level of cultural irreverence that gently avoids a bitter aftertaste, whilst also providing more sombre meditations on age and humanity. It is a fine exhibition of Euro-indie cinema’s double-edged sword; the excellent performances grow ponderously into the rich landscape and excessive run time. It’s safe to say it’s the longest two-hour film I’ve ever seen.
Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a retired composer, renowned for his contribution to music. When approached by an emissary of the Queen to perform for the royal family and receive a knighthood, he declines for personal reasons. The film takes place at an extravagant Swiss hotel, filled with colourful guests, many of whom are famous including Ballinger’s close friend, film director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel). Most of the (loosely-termed) plot is driven by the interplay between these two, and their various conversations with actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) and Fred’s daughter, Lena (Rachel Weisz).
“Sorrentino’s overzealous approach is both his greatest strength and weakness”
Youth may have benefitted from a little more time on the editing table. While Sorrentino’s flamboyance and enthusiasm oozes through all the cracks in the flow of the film, Caine and Keitel’s commitment deserves a more measured approach to the thematic elements. The musings on age, the human body and the changing nature of art just don’t tessellate coherently. What it means is there is an overly generous serving of borderline-pretentious dialogue between the unique characters. Sorrentino’s overzealous approach is both his greatest strength and weakness.
Yet, while it is refreshing to see a director’s orchestra playing so purely for their conductor, not all the instruments are in tune here.
More like this: The Lobster (2015)