Published on December 13th, 2015 | by Curtis Mayfield
Youth – Film Review
Reviewed by Curtis Mayfield M-H on on the 1st of December 1st 2015
StudioCanal presents a film by Paolo Sorrentino
Written by Paolo Sorrentino
Produced by Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima & Carlotta Calori
Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano & Jane Fonda
Music by David Lang
Cinematography: Luca Bigazzi
Edited by Cristiano Travaglioli
Running Time: 118 minutes
Release Date: on the 26th of December 2015
Actor Michael Caine is usually shown as the older, wiser character in movies (The Dark Knight series, Inception) but isn’t usually the main focus of a story. In Youth that’s changed slightly as he plays Fred Ballinger, one of the film’s main characters, who is a retired composer of classical music. Fred goes off to a luxury resort with filmmaker friend Mike Boyle (Harvey Keitel) in hopes of finding clarity. The resort is in the Swiss Alps, which not only makes for some stunning scenery but also works as an appropriate backdrop to this somewhat surreal movie. Among the resort’s guests are a strange group of contrasting characters.
There’s the successful actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), who’s researching for an upcoming role. Fred’s daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) plays a double role as both daughter and assistant to the music composer. She’s married to Mike’s son but is left for another woman who happens to be a really big pop star. During their stay Fred and Mike reflect on their lives and depressingly bring up the fact that they don’t remember much from their childhoods. The conversations they have are charming but not cheesy, which makes this a far cry from the other “we’re old but we’re still funny” type of films (Last Vegas and The Bucket List for example). While Mike struggles to finish writing his last movie with four young screenwriters, Fred finds it difficult to connect with his daughter. Lena resents him for putting his profession before his family, which leads up to a fantastically passionate monologue from Weisz when she confronts her father about her upbringing.
Writer/Director Paolo Sorrentino has created a bizarre yet insightful movie about reflecting on the past, while also attempting to figure out the future. Mike’s last few movies have been duds and is counting on this new one to seal off his legacy. Fred is constantly offered to conduct an orchestra for the Queen but mysteriously turns down the offer each time. Caine and Keitel put in great performances in their own right and play off each other well. Paul Dano plays the role of reclusive and jaded movie star perfectly, almost resembling a real-life Shia LaBeouf. Jimmy Tree has made it big in Hollywood by playing some sort of robot in a mega-hit movie but is frustrated with his new found fame. He wants more from his career and life. The way the resort is shot makes it seem like a bizarre and almost sinister institution, although we never see who’s running the place.
Youth uses surreal imagery as a way to showcase the different character’s backgrounds. I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what Sorrentino was getting at with these dreamlike sequences but overall they’re just fun to watch, much like this movie. There are some insanely depressing moments in this film, mainly in the scenes where Cain and Keitel showcase their characters wanting more from life but it all feels a little too late for them. David Lang’s musical score is just as important as any of the actors on screen as it guides the audience’s emotion. Youth is an original piece of film that is both entertaining and emotive. The acting is held up by strong performances, especially from Rachel Weisz, while the cinematography is so good you could watch the movie with the sound off and still enjoy it. The character development is so spot-on by the end of this two hour long movie you feel like you’ve known these people you’re whole life.
Summary: The acting is held up by strong performances, especially from Rachel Weisz, while the cinematography is so good you could watch the movie with the sound off and still enjoy it.