Directed By: Paolo Sorrentino

Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, and Jane Fonda

The Great Beauty
was a high mark for Paolo Sorrentino two years ago, and I've got nothing but respect for Sorrentino's Oscar-winning artistic achievement, which just happens to be one of my favorite movies featuring the Eternal City.  With this in mind, I came into his latest endeavor Youth with a certain curiosity.  When you factor in the incredible cast of beloved thespians he's wrangled up, Youth reels any cinema lover into the theater on paper alone.  Thankfully, Sorrentino's latest film largely delivers.

Composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is on vacation in the Alps with his longtime friend director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel).  Famous for composing the eight "Simple Songs", Fred frowns on his commercial successes and prefers his lesser known artistic compositions.  He frequently commiserates with younger actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), who is also on holiday.  Fred's daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) checks in on him before headed on a trip of her own with her husband.  Before leaving, she sets up a number of doctor's appointments for the septuagenarian composer.  When not getting poked and prodded by a doctor or getting a massage, he's dodging the Queen's emissary (Alex Macqueen) who is persistent in requesting that Fred conduct the "Simple Songs" at a royal celebration later in the year.

While the apathetic composer avoids his artistic calling and the opportunity of a lifetime, his friend Mick embraces his own by working on yet another film with a team of creative upstarts.  The film is to be called Life's Last Day.  He seems to be under the impression that he can get longtime collaborator and beloved actress Brenda Morel (Jane Fonda) to star in the film for him.  What Mick fails to realize is that he's past his prime.  With an obstinate Fred thinking his time has come and gone and an eager Mick who believes exactly the opposite, one interesting vacation ensues. 

In Youth, Paolo Sorrentino stays within his lane and does what he does best.  With his trademark eye-popping aesthetics, yet another leading artist plagued by an unmistakable emptiness (see both The Great Beauty and This Must Be the Place for previous examples), and his usual oddball energy, Sorrentino certainly returns to the big screen in grand style.  This is all to be expected with the director by now as he frequently tries to make a compelling cinematic experience that's very sensory in nature.  What the director does differently this time around is that he uses sound in the manner he uses visuals to augment this sensory experience.  You can certainly here in the cacophony of sounds throughout the film.  Moreover, Youth is one big melody that will enchant plenty of moviegoers this holiday season.

The film is defined by the friendship between Michael Caine's Fred Ballinger and Harvey Keitel's Mick Boyle.  It may be a good friendship in which their characters only tell each other the good things, but it certainly has its ups and downs throughout Youth.  For his part as Fred Ballinger, Caine offers a somewhat antisocial artist looking at his legacy and not liking what he sees.  Blind to the reality that simplicity can sometimes be elegance, his apathy for the world's simpler indulgences like his "Simple Songs" is the platform for a delightful performance full of witty, sardonic dialogue, especially with Keitel.  With a character who flees from any semblance of emotion, Youth features Caine doing exactly what he does best on the big screen.  For his part as Mick Boyle, Harvey Keitel is the cinema legend we know and love.  Still bringing his signature swagger to the role of this aging filmmaker, Keitel brings quite a bit of levity to the film in a very different way from Caine, by conversely embracing emotion.

The supporting players are just as interesting in Sorrentino's Youth.  For her part as Lena Ballinger. Rachel Weisz is a somewhat self-loathing woman suddenly plunged into this dark moment in her life by certain personal circumstances.  Far from a daddy's girl, it's fascinating to watch her turn to her father Fred in this pivotal period in her life.  In addition to Weisz, Paul Dano also delivers a solid performance as actor Jimmy Tree.  The youngest star of the bunch, Dano offers a younger, equally intriguing version of Ballinger himself as an artist struggling to find meaning in his work despite the simplistic nature of mainstream Hollywood.  Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jane Fonda who rises to the occasion as veteran actress Brenda Morel.  If I could use a single word to describe the Oscar-winning actress's performance, that word would be ferocity.  Though her screen time is brief, she is a vital player who leaves an indelible mark on the film with one fierce performance.

gets a 0.03% rating.  Paolo Sorrentino and his cast of screen legends find their sound and largely stay in tune.  Have some wine coolers with this one.