Grand ho­tel

YOUTH, drama, not rated, Re­gal DeVar­gas, 2.5 chiles

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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

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