Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth starts with the peppy 80s hit song “You got the love”, and from there on you know that at the very least the music of the movie will be top notch. Trust us when we say that there are a lot many things going for this movie apart from the score by David Lang . It is a rich blend of meditative, musical, melancholic and beautiful cinema which seems to take its own pace to unfold, but as an audience, you know that Paolo is just weaving his magic. Youth is not exactly moulded of the same material as his magnum opus “The Great Beauty”, but despite it’s flaws, it is an exploration of the inner psyche of the retired stars, or the ones who somehow seem to abhor public adulation due to reclusiveness. Humour and melancholy coupled with steering music makes the movie a relaxing watch, just like the Swiss sanatorium itself where the whole story unfolds. The sanatorium symbolizes both the escape from daily concerns and towards the later part of the movie it starts to give the feel of confinement.
Michael Caine plays the role of an erstwhile celebrated music director (Fred Ballinger) who is on a vacation with his daughter (Rachel Weisz). He is pursued by the Queen’s emissary (played with flair and impeccable comic timing with an apt name for the job by Alex Macqueen) for a Royal performance of his most famous work, known as the Simple Songs. Harvey Keitel plays Mick Boyle, a celebrated movie director of yesteryears, who has lost his magic of late, yet, trying to make one final ambitious project before hanging up his boots. Both the veterans share an amazing camaraderie and Sorrentino gives them plenty of material to play with here, like the constant notes they exchange about their daily prostrate routine, the continuous gag about an old couple who never speak and how both seem to have lost a large chunk of their recollection of their younger days.
The movie has other quirky characters relevant to the story and theme, like the one-movie wonder Boyle (played with amazing screen presence by Paul Dano) who hates the fact that people only remember him for just one role as a robot in a blockbuster several years ago (an ode to Birdman maybe?), an obese Maradona look-alike and a voyeuristic yet sweet mountaineer. All these characters confluence at this therapeutic retreat and somehow their paths entwine, some more prominently than others.
Mick’s son, who is married to Fred’s daughter leaves her for a seductive pop star who is “good in bed”. This breaks Leda’s heart and builds up to a very harsh and perfectly delivered monologue by Weisz where she chastises her father for not caring for his family when they were young. Sorrentino uses all these characters to explore the human emotions of fame (or the loss of it), bereavement, physical deterioration and relations. In one of the scenes, Mick says,” You say that emotions are overrated. But that’s bullshit. Emotions are all we’ve got.” This sentence almost summarises Paolo’s motive behind making this movie. At another point when the Queen’s emissary returns to coax Fred into accepting the royal offer, the audience feels perplexed at the utter disregard for such an offer. Michael Caine’s emotional reveal that his songs were only meant to be sung by his, now voiceless wife, and no soprano in the world can do justice to the songs other than her, leaves a lump not only in his daughter’s throat but also the audience’s. Keitel’s Mick struggles to find the ending of his ambitious project which he refers to as “Testament”. He is excited by the prospect of casting his long term muse, Brenda Morel (the amazing Jane Fonda) in his last movie at the helm. But when Brenda appears at the luxe lodge, plastic faced, bejeweled, Mick is in for the surprise of his life. Brenda and Mick have an ugly confrontation where Brenda tries to show Mick the mirror that his best days are past him. She is almost cruel in trying to explain the futility of making more movies at the risk of losing his past laurels. Jane Fonda delivers a power packed performance in the three scenes that she gets in the movie, totally stealing the limelight in the confrontation scene with Mick.
Shot by Luca Bigazzi, each scene of the movie comes alive with colour and natural beauty (almost in lines with the grandiose The Grand Budapest Hotel which also had a similar plot). The backdrop of the Swiss Alps and the calming effect of the overall ambience of the resort works wonders in delivering the right contrast to the emotional turbulence going through the minds of the characters. The score by David Lang is soothing and goes well with the kind of exchange taking place on screen. In one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie, Fred is sitting alone in a field when he suddenly starts an impromptu gig with the sounds of the cowbells. In another scene involving Mick, all the female characters from his movies during his illustrious career appear on a green valley and inact scenes from their respective movies, as if crying out to their creator to respect his laurels and not be greedy and staunch.
Youth is a movie which grows on you. The casting is perfect and the chemistry, specially between the leads is heart warming. Caine and Keitel are both witty and wily and the supporting cast simply feeds off them. Rachel Weisz is a revelation in the supporting role and looks feisty in the scenes where she tackles emotional turmoil and vents out at others. The magic of Paolo Sorrentino is still relatively unknown to the western world, but he makes a proper case for himself with Youth. Also the performances and the music only helps him create a beautiful story.
Why we think this movie will get into the Oscars—
Music—the music of this movie creates an other world-like experience for the viewers. The Simple Songs, specially the finale are soul steering. In one of the interviews, David Lang expressed his delight in working on a project about a music composer which was an extra drive for him to write for the movie and he delivers here.
Michael Caine & Harvey Keitel—there are a multitude of movies which project men as heroes and infallible. So how does a movie about two octogenarians stand out? Very well, indeed. The acting prowess of these two stalwarts are in full view in Youth. They are well supported by the supporting cast and the dialogues are both funny and deep dwelling at the same time.
Categories in which the movie may get recognized—
Best Original Song—the Simple Songs 3, is a fitting finale to the movie. The song was built up throughout the move as a masterpiece and we believe the Oscar committee will give a favourable nod to it with a nomination.
Best Supporting Actress— this may be a long shot, but Jane Fonda sweeps the audience with her powerful diva persona on screen. She is the epitome of grace and straight talk in one scene and a broken mess in another. And all these in just three scenes that she gets.
gobblpoint:It’s a beautiful watch. Humour, self doubt, pain, music all interspersed to make something wonderful. A must watch on a lazy Sunday.
Disclaimer: The photograph used in this blog is the sole property of the makers of this film and does not belong to us in any form whatsoever.