Michael Caine is yet another one of a small select group of actors who always turns in a great performance and will make any movie in which he appears feel a bit special. He is now in his 80’s; and as some of my other favourites, such as Pacino and De Niro are not too far behind in the age ranks, I’m not too sure who is going to replace them in my affections when they finally call it a day – probably no one.
The last Caine film I saw was the excellent Harry Browne, in which he plays an avenging, retired marine. The part suited him down to the ground. I am not convinced that Caine was perfectly cast in Youth, although the old trooper pulled out all the stops and delivered his usual blistering performance.
Caine was, is, and always will be a cockney. He is pretty good at American accents and he had a wonderful upper-class British accent in the film that made him – Zulu. But in Youth, Caine plays the part of a world renowned, retired maestro – an orchestral conductor on a par with Barbirolli or von Karajan. I’m sorry, but dear old Michael, however hard he tries, doesn’t quite pull off the right accent. He wasn’t a Malcolm Sergeant – not even a Colin Davis. He tries to speak in an educated middle-class accent, but to me, his cockney strains still came through.
I doubt if the director, Paolo Sorrentino, who also wrote this fine movie, even realised the problem existed – after all, he’s not English. I know Caine was supposed to be a bit of a rough diamond, but how rough a diamond can you be if you have lived and breathed the world of classical music for your entire life. I can’t see anyone’s cockney accent surviving that. But I guess it’s only the English who will notice it.
The film’s screenplay was very original and the film was beautifully made. Together with Harvey Keitel, who plays an ageing film director, Caine is holidaying at an exclusive upmarket Swiss hotel in the Alps. The hotel caters for the rich and famous where healthy food and exercise is the order of the day. We have a female British pop star (Rita Ora), a very fat Maradonna look- alike, a real Miss Universe, a high-class escort, and many more diverse characters, most of them young and beautiful.
Caine is visited by the Queen’s equerry, who asks Caine to conduct some of his own compositions for Prince Philip’s birthday. He declines – twice. Keitel is surrounded by a ragbag trio of young impecunious screenwriters who are helping him to complete his latest screenplay.
The two octogenarians also have their respective son and daughter with them, who are married to each other; but the Keitel’s son dumps Caine’s daughter soon after the movie starts. So what are all these people really doing there and how do they interact with each other? Will Caine eventually change his mind and agree to conduct for the Queen? Will ‘has-been’ Keitel get his script finished and will he get the money to shoot it? Will the arrival of feisty Jane Fonda as Keitel’s leading lady change anything? Then there is Caine’s estranged wife – who is dying.
The film quite clearly has Italian roots. There’s some titillating nudity and a few doses of ‘rumpy-pumpy’ to spice things up a bit, along with a healthy dose of surrealism and a lot of ‘laugh out loud’, witty humour. It is about two successful men at the end of their lives, thinking back to the days of their youth. It is also about the youths themselves and the intense, fleeting relationships they have with each other. It is a masterpiece of film-making which will entertain and uplift you in equal measure. I can’t explain why – it just does.
My wife, who is Thai, couldn’t make head or tail of what was going on, but that doesn’t surprise me. She struggled mightily with the dialogue – which is at the heart of the film. In any case, there’s no discernible plot in the traditional sense, it’s far too Italian for that…. As another IDMb reviewer has written, “Either you love it or you get nothing from it.”
I loved it and my wife…well.. she…(guess)…
Four and a half Mobi-Stars out of Five
(All 77 of my movie reviews can be found on IMDb by clicking the link on the right sidebar.)