Cast includes: Harvey Keitel (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Michael Caine (The Dark Knight), Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), Paul Dano (Prisoner), Ed Stoppard (Upstairs Downstairs), Jane Fonda (The Newsroom), Alex Macqueen (Cinderella)
Writer/Director: Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty)
Genre: Drama | Humor (124 minutes)
“You can’t smoke here.” Oh… the Queen’s emissary puts away his cigarette and begins again… “Maestro, I hope your holiday is going well.” Fred Ballinger says it is… and why wouldn’t it? Here in the Swiss Alps, this decadent spa offers everything from activities for those who want activities to spectacular scenery for those who don’t. (Fred favors as much inactivity as possible.) The Queen’s emissary is here to offer him a knighthood, assuming he’ll conduct a special performance of his famous Simple Songs. “I will not conduct my Simple Songs.” Even the offer of a special soprano falls flat… “No one will do.” “Very well. I shall relay our conversation to the Queen.” (We know this isn’t the end of it.) As he leaves, Jimmy Tree gives an approving nod from across the lawn. Fred doesn’t know Jimmy, but Jimmy later says, “I was thinking today how you and I have the same problem.” He explains how a part he played years ago has dogged him… just as the Simple Songs have dogged Fred. Presumptuous young fans think they know everything!
“Did you piss yesterday?” Mick asks Fred. After the daily conversation about pissing, Mick has news. “Miss Universe is coming for a stay.” Apparently, it’s one of the prizes she’s won. “I’m not sure if it’s a prize or a punishment,” says Fred. In the meantime, Fred’s daughter Lena is leaving today and has made sure Fred will be in good hands… activities, massages, doctor visits, etc. “At my age, getting in shape is a waste of time.” “Do you remember Gilda?” Fred asks Mick. Fred has been carrying a grudge for decades because he believes Mick slept with her. “I would have given 20 years of my life to have slept with her.” “I can’t even remember if I slept with her or not,” says Mick.
“Your son has left my daughter,” Fred declares after Lena returns broken hearted. Mick and Fred have been friends for more than 60 years. If Gilda couldn’t come between them, Mick’s idiot son won’t either. “Emotions are overrated.” Michael Caine as Fred and Harvey Keitel as Mick are perfect as the irascible old friends. Although Fred has retired, Mick still has one more movie to make… his “film testament.” He also has a team of aspiring young scriptwriters in tow. Between Mick’s film, Fred’s snubbing the Queen, Lena’s meltdown, Jimmy’s kissing up, Miss Universe and other spa guests… plus flights of fantasy… the film goes from one quirky scene to another. Fans of The Great Beauty (2014 Best Foreign Film) will certainly see stylistic similarities. Cinematically, Youth is extremely deliberate, often surreal, with shades of Fellini. (Best cow orchestra ever!) There is actually quite a bit going on, but it never moves very fast. So what’s it about, anyway? Life! Mick believes his film masterpiece will have deep insights. “We’re all just extras,” observes Fred.
3 popped kernels
A Swiss spa, 2 old friends, lots of quirky guests and the meaning of life… which looks totally different, depending on your vantage point
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Art House
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: 2 old friends reflect on life and youth
Social Significance: Thought Provoking