I used to think chugging Rumplemintz was the quickest way to induce vomiting, then I saw Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth. An agonizing, pretentious and unfunny two hour stretch that ranks along side shitting my pants in Funcoland when I was eleven as one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life. This review is going to sound needlessly harsh and mean-spirited, but it’s only a reflection of how bewildered and taken advantage of I felt in the theater. This is the cinematic equivalent of getting urinated on.
Films built around old men musing about missed experiences in their youth are anything but original, and one must really have something urgent and poignant to say to stand head and shoulders above the pack. Unfortunately, Sorrentino just has his characters rehash things that have been said a million and half times about getting old – you don’t have the energy, you don’t have the drive and you have trouble urinating (the white hairs in my theater sure loved the heck out of this “classic” reoccurring joke.) In one scene, Harvey Keitel’s aging filmmaker is talking to a gaggle of horribly cliched young screenwriter characters. They are looking through one of those binocular things at scenic ski slope. You know, you put the quarter in and look at shit outdoors. Don’t know what it’s called. Don’t give enough of a fuck to look it up, either. Anyway, Keitel tells one of the young female screenwriters to look through it. He tells her that’s how you see life when you’re younger, up close. Then he flips it around and tells her to look at it. Everything is looks farther away and unattainable when you’re older. What kind of moldy, corny old metaphor is that?
Youth might have been easier to handle as just a schmaltzy obvious old dog comedy, but Sorrentino adds a heavy dose of melancholy to the mix. This might be the first feel-bad sentimental movie ever made. First of all, Youth follows a bunch of ridiculously rich and famous elderly people lounging around in a beautiful Swiss resort. Surrounded with luxury most people have only seen on television, we’re supposed to empathize with these sad rich assholes getting massages and watching beautiful women swim naked all day. I could understand this if the film wanted to make a point about taking privilege for granted, but it doesn’t. In fact, it doesn’t really explore the characters at all. Instead of properly exploring the characters, Sorrentino found it important to add a bunch of beautifully shot but obscure imagery of artists performing for the depressed older gentleman while contemporary indie music blasts in the background.
I have to give credit where credit is due, and applaud the film’s cinematography. It’s stunningly gorgeous. If only it was enhancing an actual story. The acting is solid for the most part. Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano and Rachel Weisz do the most that they can with underwritten, uninteresting and unrealistic roles. There’s a monologue given by Weisz that is so expository and on-the-nose you can’t help but laugh. If there’s an MVP in Youth, it’s Jane Fonda as a bitter, aging actress who shows up in the film for five minutes. Those five minutes shared with Keitel’s aging filmmaker are the most powerful five minutes of the film, and make you wish Youth had been about these two characters. Instead, we get gorgeously filmed pee jokes scored by Sun Kil Moon. Kill me. Grade: D