Cannes Review: 'Youth' Makes Growing Old With Caine & Keitel Fun
by Marco Cerritos
May 22, 2015
Reporting from the Cannes Film Festival. Most films depicting old age tell their stories slowly and move in a darker and depressing direction. While this isn't always a bad thing, director Paolo Sorrentino's new film Youth takes a more light-hearted approach to aging and it's a welcome departure. The Italian filmmaker recently won the Best Foreign Language Oscar for The Great Beauty and all the fun and whimsy of that previous endeavor is on full display here as well. Youth is also Sorrentino's second English-language film after the disastrous This Must Be the Place, a huge misfire that has paved the way for this return to form.
Sorrentino's Youth takes place in an exclusive Swiss spa for the wealthy and pampered. We're introduced to many eccentric characters but at first glance are focused on two best friends. Fred (played by Michael Caine) is a world-renowned musician who has just been offered Knighthood and must wrestle with the decision of accepting, while Mick (played by Harvey Keitel) is a filmmaker with many minions in tow trying to get his latest project off the ground. The two men are old, cantankerous and full of wisdom, the kinds of things that are usually saccharine in other movies but are played for laughs here. They bicker, check out the scenery and bicker some more while pausing here and there to examine just how far they've actually come in life. It's a simple setup that Sorrentino uses to full effect, making the wise choice of embracing his character's flaws instead of hiding them from the audience.
When the attention is off the two friends we meet some of the other guests at the spa which include a quirky actor (played by Paul Dano) best known for playing a robot and unable to escape from that shadow and Fred's own daughter Lena (played by Rachel Weisz), who has just been dealt a crushing personal blow. These side characters are for the most part just window dressing but the real supporting juggernaut comes in the form of superstar actress Brenda More (played with a vicious glee by Jane Fonda). She's the potential leading lady for Mick's new movie and she's come to the spa with a very funny counteroffer of her own. Fonda's scenes are few but powerful making end-of-the-year awards talk completely possible, that's how good she is in this movie.
And speaking of such awards talk, Caine and Keitel are shoo-ins for accolades as well. They are razor-sharp in their performances and Sorrentino guides them with just the right balance of wit and anger. Youth mostly caters to an older audience but that doesn't mean it's for adults only. As its title suggests, younger moviegoers will also have plenty to sink their teeth into. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel are emotional and vulnerable in a way we've never seen them be before making some scenes truly magical and revelatory. This isn't a depressing tale of two men growing old together, instead there are plenty of laughs and joy in Youth, a true celebration of life and the human spirit.
Marco's Cannes 2015 Rating: B+
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