I wanted to hate Youth. I usually walk into movies wanting to like/love them, but given my antipathy for Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty, I was hoping for some more ammunition in my argument that it’s terribly overrated.
Youth gave me sufficient ammunition, I’ll give it that. Sorrentino’s take on affluent, existential aimlessness, spent entirely in an absurdly opulent hotel in the Swiss alps, evinces all the pseudointellectual shallowness of his previous film. Michael Caine’s classical composer and Harvey Keitel’s film director ambling through the hotel’s idyllic surrounds much like Jep Gambardella strolled through Rome in The Great Beauty, through trite satire with The Lobster’s stiffness but none of its smarts.
Unsubtle symbolism is cloddishly underlined in the final act, while the female characters are essentially mannequins: Jane Fonda cameos as a gnarled diva, unappreciative of Keitel for launching her career, Madalina Diana Ghenea appears as unnamed, unclothed Miss Universe and Rachel Weisz falls for a mountaineer for some reason.
I didn’t hate it, though. Sorrentino is an awful screenwriter but an accomplished aesthete, conjuring a coolly captivating world that goes some way towards forgiving the sins of his script. It might be dumb, but at least it’s pretty.
Youth is currently screening at the BBC First British Film Festival.