This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 6th December 2015
Many adored it, but for me Paolo Sorrentino’s last film, The Great Beauty, jarred with its sledgehammer morality tale about the horrors of materialism, superficiality and the obsessive desire for beauty.
His latest, Youth, is in fact just as unsubtle in its wistful evaluation of the charms of youth versus the travails of old age. However, due largely to a typically intoxicating performance by Rachel Weisz and the interesting reappearance of Harvey Keitel, Sorrentino sneaks closer to making a fan of me yet.
Weisz plays the adult daughter of a retired virtuoso conductor (Michael Caine, fine but not especially distinct from all of his recent roles), the pair endeavouring to spend quality father-daughter time at a luxury spa in the Swiss Alps. Caine wears the oblivious conceit of someone who has long got used to the esteem in which he was held, while the slightly neurotic Weisz harbours childhood grudges behind a tight smile. They spend their days and evenings in the company of a curious ensemble cast which comprises indie starlet Paul Dano and an unfortunate cameo from Jane Fonda (whose late-reel entrance sadly derails the film after what should have been a satisfactory, natural ending).
As with Beauty, the narrative in Youth feels largely observational and shares lots of tropes with its predecessor. It’s very “scripty”, and many of the performances come across as too mannered – but this is Sorrentino, after all, and to that end it’s practically Fellini.
Nestled in the spectacular Swiss landscape, wonderful cinematography and clever musical cues underwrite two old men comparing their plumbing while lusting after a visiting Miss Universe. Once again, the theme is what it says on the tin, but there is enough in this offering to induce occasional delight.