Fred and Mick, two old friends, are on vacation in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Fred, a composer and conductor, is now retired. Mick, a film director, is still working. They look with curiosity and tenderness on their children's confused lives, Mick's enthusiastic young writers, and the other hotel guests. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. But someone wants at all costs to hear him conduct again.
ActorsStarring: Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Mădălina Diana Ghenea, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Roly Serrano, Tom Lipinski, Ed Stoppard, Mark Kozelek, Robert Seethaler, Alex MacQueen, Luna Zimić Mijović, Chloe Pirrie, Alex Beckett, Nate Dern, Mark Gessner, Paloma Faith, Sonia Gessner, Rebecca Calder, Loredana Cannata
The latest movie of Paolo Sorrentino was shot by the same Director of Photography as his previous movie La Grande Belezza. And the movie is beautifully shot indeed. Set in an exclusive hotel in the Swiss Alps, Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel observe the other guests as well as their own lives and the follies of their youth, most of which they are too old to accurately remember.
Caine plays a famous composer, Fred Ballinger, and Keitel a famous director, Mick Boyle. Mick’s son is married to Fred’s daughter Leda (Rachel Weisz), who is staying with them in the hotel. While Fred is done with composing, Mick is working on his final major movie. They babble about the women they wished they would have slept with (but can’t quite remember anymore whether they did or not), they complain about their failing prostates, and they place bets on whether a bored couple are going to be speaking with one another over dinner this time.
The movie is great in this mode – beautifully shot, well acted, light entertainment contemplating youth and old age. This is interspersed with various subplots, which are a bit hit-and-miss. A Swiss mountaineer trying to court Rachel Weisz doesn’t quite work with a, well frankly just silly scene towards the end of the movie. Paul Dano on the other hand does a very good job as frustrated actor looking for inspiration for his new film, resulting in a very funny scene where he shows up in full make up and costume at the breakfast table. Paloma Faith playing herself in a music-video scene is a complete fail (both her acting and the scene), but then a Maradonna-like ex-footballer has a great scene on the tennis court. And Jane Fonda is surprisingly strong in her scene with Keitel, even though she looks terrible with thick layers of caked-on make-up.
The main character is Fred, the composer, and therefore there is an underlying theme of music. The soundtrack is mostly good and fitting, with a few strangely noisy outbursts, but mainly very pleasant and concluding in a somewhat sappy but suitable grand finale.
Even if it all doesn’t quite come together, and therefore may not be Sorrentino’s Magnum Opus, it is a lovingly made and quite enjoyable movie with many beautiful shots, a pleasantly motley selection of dryly comedic scenes, and solid acting by Caine, Fonda and Dano.
Certainly worth seeing.