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Monday, November 12, 2012

Last week it was loud rock and roll music on stage for an hour and 45 minutes in “Million Dollar Quartet” and today it was an hour and 45 minutes of classical music on the screen in “A Late Quartet”. The latter had a name cast with some standout performances and a much deeper story.

Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman), his wife Juliette (Catherine Keener), along with Peter (Christopher Walken) and Daniel (Mark Ivanir) are celebrating their 25th anniversary playing in a string quartet that has taken them all over the world. The whole dynamics of the four is pulled asunder when Peter is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease bringing out jealousies, resentments, betrayal and infidelity.

The screenplay by Seth Grossman and Yaron Zilberman, the latter also directing, show how a quartet must work and play together to bring a harmony to the music that is flawless. The instruments of the musicians play off their feelings, emotions and yet they must reign them in so they will sound as one.

Though there are other minor characters the fifth member of the major roles is played by Imogene Poots as Alexandria, the daughter of Robert and Juliette, who tells her mother what it has meant to be growing up with parents who traveled 7 months of the year. Poots arises to the acting challenge with Keener in this scene but otherwise she is either miscast or directed well.

Regarding the 4 stars I was most disappointed by Christopher Walken who isn’t aging well and really gives Donald Trump a run for his money in the hair department. He does have a very touching scene near the end that brings the audience to tears though a lot of logic has to be checked at the door. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a more quiet role than he usually does and won me over completely which isn’t always the case. I am not familiar with Mark Ivanir but he certainly impressed me in this role. (Except for his 5 o’clock shadow beard which so many actors feel it is necessary to have these days. In the scene where Hoffman shaves you almost want to applaud this simple act!)

The best of the cast is Catherine Keener as mother, wife and viola player of the quartet. She has scenes with each of the leads and your eyes are on her in those scenes.

The classical music is an integral part of the movie never overpowering the actors or story but adding to each scene. The main piece of music, Beethoven’s Quartet in C sharp minor, opus 131, is played by The Brentano String Quartet. I believe in the magic of movies and I want to think it is the actors who are truly playing the instruments and it is made believable enough to think that is what’s happening.

“A Late Quartet” is a ‘small’ art theatre film that will hold everyones interest for its playing time and, as a by product will introduce many to what is called chamber music.

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    Thank you for the review
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    Great review!
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