YOUTH, drama, not rated, Regal DeVargas, 2.5 chiles
In Youth, the latest homage to Fellini from Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty, Il Divo), two old friends contemplate life from opposite perspectives in a luxurious Alpine resort. Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a celebrated composer/conductor who has turned his back on his past and his future and is wallowing in the present. He is a regular at the resort, where he has come for years with his wife, but she is no longer with him, and the place feels empty. He’s out of the game. The world still calls to him — here in the form of an emissary from Buckingham Palace, dangling a knighthood and requesting a command performance — but Fred is no longer listening.
Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is still in the game but trailing the reek of desperation. He’s a celebrated film director, but the celebration is winding down. He’s at the resort with an eccentric young team of screenwriters, thrashing out the screenplay for what he envisions as his career-summing opus, his last cinematic testament. Despite his upbeat pronouncements to Fred, it’s not going terribly well.
Rounding out the important dramatis personae are Fred’s lovely but troubled daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz), whose marriage to Mick’s son (Ed Stoppard) is on the rocks, and Paul Dano, playing a movie star trying to choose between a career path of blockbuster entertainment or something more meaningful. Jane Fonda appears for a key scene as a diva who has been Mick’s meal ticket for many years but is here to let him know he’s washed up and that she’s cutting him loose.
In many movies about filmmakers, especially those with artistic pretensions (and Youth does not scrimp in that department), the onscreen director is a surrogate for the man behind the camera. But do not look for Sorrentino in the aging Mick (though he gives him a pointedly Felliniesque moment, when the leading ladies of his lifetime of films salute him from a hillside); the forty-five-year-old Italian has some mean things to say about the careers of his elders, whose work declines into pathetic irrelevance as they head down the far side of the hill.
Sorrentino’s premise of characters gathered at a grand hotel is not a fresh one, but the top-notch cast and the lovely premises and surroundings captured by the camera of Luca Bigazzi give us enough to enjoy a pleasant couple of hours. There are some striking scenes and moments. But Sorrentino is too much in thrall to the master, Fellini; he never seems to get an original feel for the material and make it matter. — Jonathan Richards
Stand by me: Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel