First Hit: A sometimes odd, yet compelling film that created a beautiful ending allowing the audience to hear and see the soul of Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine).
Ballinger is on vacation in the Alps with his best friend Mick (Harvey Keitel) and daughter Lena Ballinger (Rachel Weisz). He’s a retired orchestra conductor and seems tired and disenchanted. As these elder men watch the younger people, they see the difference of today’s youth and their own youth.
Their kids are struggling in their relationship, Mick is trying to write a new screenplay, Fred is being asked to conduct again for the Queen of England, and Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) is attempting to find his character for a new film by watching the people at the hotel.
There are odd acts each evening in the backyard of the hotel as entertainment and as a distraction. The conversations between everyone are abstractly shown sometimes with context other times without. As Fred begins to come to grips with his feelings towards how music was his true love, not his wife or daughter; he slowly is able to discuss his poor parenting and his lack of being a good husband with his daughter. In the end, the performance he leads is beyond beautiful – it is the expression of his love.
Caine was excellent in his quiet way. His way of showing his character growing through this story is fantastic. Keitel is great as a friend and coming to grips with his fading director and writing talents. Jan Fonda, as Keitel’s actress muse Brenda Morel, is fantastic. Her biting cynicism is amazing. Dano is amazing as an actor finding a way to play a part and then letting the part go because he cannot relate or honor the character. Weisz is wonderful as the daughter learning to love her dad. Paolo Sorrentino wrote and directed the film. His dialogue, at times, is sublime. Other times some of the scenes came off a bit disjointed with the film’s purpose.
Overall: The ending was worth the intermediary flaws.