Acclaimed Italian director Paolo Sorrentino first gained my attention with his Fellini homage, “The Great Beauty,” which ended up earning him the Oscar for best Foreign language film back in 2014. And now he seems to be going after more Oscars with his latest and so far best film, the ironically titled “Youth,” starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as best friends Fred and Mick.
Fred (Michael Caine) makes his living as a composer and Mick (Harvey Keitel) as a filmmaker. While on vacation together in the Swiss Alps, Fred is pestered by Queen Elizabeth II’s emissaries to perform his famous (and least favorite) piece “Simple Songs” for the Queen and Prince. Mick is working on his last script, which he calls his testament. He hopes it will be his best film and the one people will remember him for.
I like how “Youth” is a very simple film about two artists at the end of their lives, dealing with public reactions to their art. Fred is tired of music while people still want more and Mick not being satisfied with his career yet, but it seems he hasn’t made a well received film in years.
Their banter back and forth make for some surprisingly funny and heartfelt moments (I didn’t know Paolo could write comedy so well).
Of course, this movie is a visual feast, seeing as how it’s a film from the director of “The Great Beauty” and is set in a resort in the swiss alps. The supporting cast is quite good, featuring quality performances from Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda.
My biggest and only issue with the film is that is has a pretty weak conclusion. I will not spoil the ending, but the final scene of the film was very predictable and betrays the character. Character arcs are good thing to have in your movie to keep audience investment, but at least make them unique and interesting, not bland and forced. Still, “Youth” is one of the better movies of the year. It’s as humorous as it is touching and gorgeous to look at.
3.5 Stars - Full Price
“Youth” will be released in select theaters on December 4, although it’s unlikely that it will come to our local theater.