3 Stars


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.


What works more are more emotional scenes, like the one just mentioned. Scenes like this, fortunately, come through with Fred and Lena. Whether it’s Fred orchestrating the sounds of nature around him or finally telling the Queen’s emissary exactly why he refuses to play the Queen’s requested piece, or Lena delivering a blistering verbal attack on Fred’s shortcomings as a husband and father, it’s easy to just fall into these scenes and watch talented actors deliver. But individual standout scenes don’t create a great overall film. And for everything that works here, there’s plenty that simply doesn’t. With the lack of a little more thought and consideration, Youth ultimately falls flat.


Youth • Rating: R (for graphic nudity, some sexuality, and language) • Runtime: 124 minutes • Genre: Drama • Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weitz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda • Director: Paolo Sorrentino • Writer: Paolo Sorrentino • Distributor: Fox Searchlight

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