Backstabbing, sex, life and death decisions. These are subjects you would never link with a film about classical music.
A Late Quartet only uses orchestral pieces as the story’s background, while the four main characters’ dysfunctional lives are front and center.
The film follows the members of a world-renowned string quartet (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir) as they face some serious ups and downs. Their individual egos and lust become the downfall of this terrific quartet.
The cellist (Walken) is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the 2nd string violinist and violist are a miserable married couple (Hoffman and Keener), whose young daughter (Imogen Poots) is having an affair with the 1st string violinist (Ivanir). Despite all these personal problems, when the four of them are focused and in agreement, they make sweet music.
While I’m the furthest thing from a classical music expert, this film was a refreshing look at how passionate these professionals are about their craft. In many ways, it reminded me of the ballet movie The Turning Point. The dedication and skill needed to succeed are shown with great respect by director Yaron Zilberman. At times the film feels a bit too melodramatic, but it never completely weighs the whole plot down.
It would be rather ho-hum to say Hoffman gives a great performance. The real news would be if he didn’t. Each scene PSH is in feels like a master class on acting. Walken hasn’t been this solid or this realistic since Catch Me If You Can. It’s rare when he isn’t playing someone mentally unstable, so it was nice to see him sink his acting teeth into a character suffering from illness. Keener and Ivanir are fine, but they certainly take a back seat to PSH and Walken. Poots proves why she is an up and coming actress to keep an eye on. She finds herself in some of the most emotional scenes of all.
If you are a fan of Beethoven, Bach, personal strife and fine acting, then you will love A Late Quartet.
I give A LATE QUARTET ***1/2 out of ****.