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Starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel The two leading actors do some of the best work of their careers playing longtime friends navigating their twilight years in Paolo Sorrentino’s witty and wise dramatic comedy “Youth.” Michael Caine plays a famous English composer named Fred, and Harvey Keitel, a noted American screenwriter named Mick, they are both staying at an ultra luxurious spa in the Swiss Alps. Fred, who has been retired for several years, resists the increasingly desperate pleas of an emissary (Alex Macqueen) sent by Queen Elizabeth. He’s offering a knighthood if only Fred will accept her invitation to conduct his most famous composition as a birthday present for Prince Philip. Fred repeatedly declines for “personal reasons,” which turn out to be heartbreaking when the emissary finally forces him to spell them out. Mick, meanwhile, is brainstorming with a quartet of hip young writers on his final masterwork, which he desperately hopes will star an acting legend he’s worked with before. She is played by Jane Fonda, in the kind of amazing one-scene cameo that gets Oscar nominations. The friends mostly avoid discussing these issues with each other, with their chats instead focusing on the physical indignities of being in their 80s and discussing their long-ago mutual pursuit of a famous beauty. Wryly observing them closely and striking up a friendship with Fred is a movie star played by Paul Dano. The younger man is debating whether to escape his burdensome identification with a robot character in a sci-fi franchise with a drastic change of pace: playing Adolf Hitler in a movie. Fred also gets a visit from his disaffected daughter and personal assistant (Rachel Weisz). She arrived to announce that her husband has just dumped her for real-life rock star. In Youth, the plot is less important than the characters and the opulent settings which are populated throughout the film. Caine and Keitel couldn’t be more different in their acting styles. But they make beautiful music together in “Youth,” which ends on an absolutely perfect grace note. Amongst all the Star Wars and animated hype of the holiday season this little movie is a gem.

Rated MA 8 out of 10

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