Paolo Sorrentino’s latest film, Youth, is loaded with talented actors giving tremendous performances in exquisitely shot settings. Yet for all of this, there’s an inertness to the film’s proceedings that leaves the film feeling incomplete.
Set in a luxurious Alpine retreat, Youth primarily focuses on two friends on holiday. Fred (Michael Caine) is a retired composer and conductor resisting an invitation from the Queen to perform his signature piece one last time. His friend Mick (Harvey Keitel) is a film director spending time with a slew of young writers attempting to complete a script for what he considers his grand swan song. Among their fellow guests are Lena (Rachel Weitz), Fred’s daughter, who is dealing with issues from the fallout to her marriage to Mick’s son, and Jimmy (Paul Dano), a young actor unhappy that he’s only recognized for a film where he played a robot. The four frequently reflect on their lives with (or at) each other, slowly but eventually making some shifts in their situations.
Not everything works, though. Scenes with Mick’s screenwriting team make a hammer to the head sound like an appealing alternative. More broadly, the film’s commentary on creating films (from both Mick and Jimmy) fails to register significantly, outside of a head-spinning turn by Jane Fonda as Brenda Morel, an actress and long-time collaborator of Mick’s who blows into the hotel to deliver a no-holds-barred set of truths to him.