Youth

At a posh hotel/resort at the foot of the Alps, two old friends are on their yearly months long vacation. One is Fred Ballinger, played by Michael Caine, a retired conductor/composer who is accompanied by his daughter, Lena, played by Rachel Weisz. The other is Mick Boyle, played by Harvey Keitel, a screenwriter and director working on what he views as his last important script with a group of young screenwriting protégées. These two old geezers get together and reflect on the state of their lives, their families and to observe the lives around them.
Whenever I go to one of these things I always wonder if it is going to have a plot, a thin excuse for a plot (the most likely scenario), or if it’s just a straight up gabfest. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those if done well, but if done badly, there simply isn’t anything worse. Especially when the characters are artists obviously serving as avatars for the filmmakers who want to impart their aesthetic philosophies on the grateful you.
Fortunately, Youth isn’t bad. It’s saved by some terrific performances. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel can always be relied upon. Rachel Weisz is always good too. And Paul Dano is good as a disillusioned movie star.
There are also some very striking images. The colors pop out at you and the Alps are a beautiful backdrop to all the blathering. Every night the hotel has some entertainment on a glowing rotating stage, which makes for an interesting image.
Unlike a lot of these things Youth is very funny in some places. And it has a nice little message. These two artists at around eighty have been doing it for so long that they’ve lost touch with the emotions that originally motivated them. Observing the dramas of the young people around them reconnects them to those emotions and in effect rejuvenates them.
At a little over two hours, Youth is too long. Ask Richard Linklater; these things shouldn’t be run over 90 minutes. At that length, even if you’re not interested in what’s being said, you can still admire the scenery for an hour and a half and not get too bored.
Youth is flawed, probably fatally so, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

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