YOUTH achieves and exceeds what most pieces of art attempt to do. This film is brought to us by the genius mind of Paolo Sorrentino, as well as career high performances from Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda. This film is a testament that is timeless, introspective, existential, and a beautifully painful kaleidoscope of emotions that is life.
Michael Caine is Fred Ballinger, a retied and apathetic conductor who is on holiday at a tranquil and off beat hotel in the Swiss Alps, where he’s been vacationing for the past sixty years with his best friend Mickey a writer/director, perfectly played with gravitas and emotion by the magnificent Harvey Keitel. Rachel Weisz is brilliant in her duel role as Fred’s assistant and daughter. Paul Dano yet again holds his own, and is not overshadowed by the acting giants he is put up against, as Jimmy, the resentful and bitter method actor doing research for his next role.
The pairing up of Caine and Keitel is awe inspiring. They are two of the very best actors not only from their respective generations, but in cinema itself. Keitel has always been a personal favorite actor of mine who has been under appreciated and for a majority of his career stuck in the “tough guy” role. At the age of 76 Keitel is fantastic as the tortured optimist that is a hybrid between Charles Bukowski and John Cassavetes . As odd of a couple Caine and Keitel are, there are not two actors alive that would be as suited as them for these two roles.
This film is difficult to navigate. The music, visual style and design soften the coarse and heavy subject matter. Its structure is purposely off beat, yet Sorrentino masterfully guides us through this journey where conventional plot points do not matter. We feel what’s happening, and that’s the purpose of this film, channeling raw and perhaps at times, unrecognizable emotion into ourselves.
Not since THE TREE OF LIFE, has a film taken us on a journey inside the human psyche that is set somewhere between reality and a fever dream. Paolo Sorrentino masterfully delivers the beautiful showboat that is YOUTH, that rare and elusive film that is as charming, poignant, inspiring, and at times devastating as life itself.