Paolo Sorrentino's "Youth" is as charming as it is frustrating, a classic art-house throwback that screams "Fellini!" while trying to keep all of its characters and storylines straight.

Paolo Sorrentino's "Youth" is as charming as it is frustrating, a classic art-house throwback that screams "Fellini!" while trying to keep all of its characters and storylines straight.

It's undeniably gorgeous if a bit hard to grasp onto if you aren't accostumedaccustomed to the lifestyles - and angst - of the rich and famous.

Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a retired orchestra conductor on holiday in an exclusive spa in the Swiss Alps. He passes the day in conversation with an old film director friend (Harvey Keitel) and turnsing down attempts by no less than the Queen of England to lure him out of retirement.

Amid the lush surroundings, we see a cavalcade of characters pass through, including an actor preparing for an unusual role (Paul Dano), Ballinger's assistant/daughter (Rachel Weisz) and, yes, Miss Universe - sadly not introduced by Steve Harvey.

Italian director Sorrentino ("The Great Beauty") drops us in a world most aren't privy to: wealthy creative geniuses unwinding in a world those without the means can hardly imagine. As such, "Youth" feels heavily in the vein of Federico Fellini's superlative "8½."

He's also working with a great cast, and it's especially fun to watch Caine go at it in the mostsuch a meaty role. Weisz is also a standout.

The lofty aspirations aren't quite reached, as the cast of characters are unevenly developed, but gorgeous cinematography by frequent Sorrentino contributor Luca Bigazzi and some great acting is worth the price of admission. This is one that may even may call for a second viewing to digest.

"Youth"

Opens Christmas Day

3 stars out of 4