Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Youth: Film Review

Youth: Film Review

Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda
Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Following up the Oscar-winning The Great Beauty, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino once again heads into whimsical and philosophical territory with this two hour, occasionally meandering piece.

Caine is famous and retired composer Fred Ballinger, who's holidaying at a sumptuous hotel occupied by quirky individuals, and friends. One of those is screen writer Mick Boyle (Keitel) who's teaching a group of writers how to finish off their screenplay in the hopes of turning it into a film and making his way back to Hollywood.

Ballinger meanwhile, is being courted by the Queen's Emissary (Doctor Who and Inbetweeners star Alex MacQueen) who is on a mission to get the maestro to perform his Simple Songs symphony for Prince Phillip's birthday, because according to the emissary, he never stops listening to the Simple songs. But Ballinger outright refuses, for personal reasons.

Also in the hotel is actor Jimmy Tree (Dano) trying to escape from the role which made him big, and Ballinger's daughter (Rachel Weisz) who's just been broken up with. Plus a portly former footballer who bears an uncanny resemblance to Maradona who just wants to be left alone.

Populated by characters and accentuated versions thereof, Home has moments of extreme beauty and moments of extreme tedium, as the philosophising continues and moments of profundity are unleashed on the audience. And yet at times, thanks to some truly wondrous eye candy and vistas that are committed to the screen, he almost pulls it off as the idiosyncracies are dialled up to 11. (A scene where the maestro sits alone in a field full of cows and conducts them, with their cowbells ringing springs squarely to mind - some will adore this indulgence, others will despise it)

With ruminations on ageing and people's place in the world, this is Caine's film by far, his almost mullet-like grey hair and sunken eyes suggesting a life well lived and occasionally regretted. As the acceptance of truths storyline progresses, all the other supporting players fade away into inconsequence which is a real shame - Keitel's ultimate fate never really has the gravitas that it should and Weisz's humane role as the woman scorned falls further out of the director's orbit.

That's some of the problem of Youth, a film whose mournful and reflective tone seems to have nowhere to go and is trapped in its own esoteric and quirky surroundings, a sort of Grand Budapest Hotel for the OAP population. Perhaps this kind of film works better in foreign language where the words drip with a beauty that's hard to translate to English; no matter, though, Youth with its occasionally deep vein of humour and endless philosophy works on some levels, but not others.


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