Current Issue #478

Review: Youth

Review: Youth

Paolo Sorrentino’s latest, after the underrated This Must Be The Place and the overrated The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), is more of the latter, a sometimes Felliniesque exercise in irksome pretension and confounding indulgence grounded by two tremendous performances and somehow, despite itself, offering flashes of profound loveliness. A revered, retired composer and conductor, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine), is holidaying in a ludicrously expensive and cinematic Swiss spa a few rooms down from his old friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), a popular hack screenwriter arguing about his apparently final masterwork with a bunch of smartarse film students. The two exchange lengthy dialogue about getting old, forgetting their families, whether or not they scored with girls 60 years ago and more, as Sorrentino looks around for a plot and instead comes up with a series of fancy events and setpieces that never truly add up. Ballinger’s daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) turns up to agonise and blame; a typecast LA actor named Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) intellectualises; Caine and Keitel (an appealingly mismatched pairing) seem to occasionally wander in their wits and suffer showy nightmares; a goofy minion keeps trying to convince Ballinger to perform for the Queen and Prince Philip (in sequences where Caine is allowed to grow unusually angry); and Sorrentino offers lots of naked extras with Felliniesque bodies to remind us that this is all about love or beauty or ageing or sensuality or the human condition – or something. A collection of ripe images and bits of arty business strung together in the hope that it equates to a narrative, this benefits hugely from the contributions of Caine and Keitel (the former so English and subtle, the latter so American and intense), and many audiences will think this brilliant simply as they’re in it. Others, however, might feel that they’ve been royally had, and that Sorrentino’s Youth is actually a tiny bit juvenile. Rated MA. Youth opens on Boxing Day

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