Italian director Paolo Sorrentino made a splash with his last film, The Great Beauty, which won best foreign-language film honors at both the Oscars and Golden Globes. And his latest film, the sublimely quirky and gorgeously shot Youth, shows there’s a lot more where that came from.
Michael Caine, taking a much needed break from the big-screen heroics of The Last Witch Hunter and Kingsman: The Secret Service, gets to once again play a character with depth. He is Fred Ballinger, a retired orchestra conductor and composer wallowing in the comforts of a Swiss resort with his daughter, Lena (Rachel Weisz), and best friend, film director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) trying to put together a comeback movie.
The real world intervenes when a British emissary (Alex Macqueen) arrives with an invitation for Ballinger to perform one of his most popular pieces for the queen. Ballinger just wants to be left alone but something happens that might change his mind.
Caine and Keitel display a cantankerous chemistry as old friends while Jane Fonda makes a memorably brief but boisterous appearance. Paul Dano, as an actor staying at the hotel who is adrift in doubt, shows that being young, or at least younger, is no guarantee of happiness.
While the path to its conclusion is rather slow and circuitous, this reflection on aging, art and friendship glows with warmth and wit. Helping that along is the sheer visual beauty (kudos to cinematographer Luca Bigazzi) and an eclectic soundtrack (including indie mainstay Mark Kozelek).
Youth, which is nominated for two Golden Globes, may find itself nearly as lauded as its predecessor this awards season.
Exclusive: Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano
☆☆☆☆ (out of five)
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda
Rated: R (graphic nudity, some sexuality, and strong language)
Running time: 118 min.