A Late Quartet FeaturedWritten by Jon Patch
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RKO Pictures, Opening Night Productions, Concept Entertainment, Unison Films, Spring Pictures and Entertainment One present an R rated, 105 minute drama directed by Yaron Zilberman, written by Zilberman and Seth Grossman with a theater release of November 16, 2012.
Four classical artists in New York City have been member s of a quartet for many years. Best friends and musical enthusiasts of course these four people are always together either practicing their talents or playing in front of audiences. Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken) is the cello player who has lost the love of his life, his wife Mariam (Anne Sofie von Otter) in the past year and mourns for her every day of his own remaining years. The film follows Peter’s pain and heartache but eventually takes a turn when he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Due to the illness Peter is faced with leaving his group and contemplates the meaning of his life from this point on without his wife and his music.
Robert Gelbart (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is the number two violinist; not a happy placement on the pecking order of his quartet seeing that he thinks he is just as good if not better than his associate Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir). This conflict continues for some time but only intensifies when his personal life at home takes a twist for the worst since he cheats on his wife Juliette (Catherine Keener) with Pilar (Liraz Charhi) a young woman he sometimes jogs with in the park. Intensities grow even worse in the group if that’s possible when Robert finds out that his friend and associate Daniel is sleeping with his only daughter Alexandra (Imogen Poots).
There are several stories taking place around the actual music heard throughout the film although it seemed heavy on stories yet not enough on the actual musical moments to enjoy in the film. All four members of the quartet contemplate whether after all these years if it is worth their time and efforts to continue to play together. It’s not until the end when the quartet plays several musical elements does the film really get to emphasis the unlocked passion for music which leads right up to Beethoven’s Opus 131.
The film seems to wonder away from its true identity which is the music. As for the stories that are taking place within the group they are intriguing at times, giving the story a bit more substance but they never really seem to develop enough into reasons for the audience to get truly invested. It was interesting to watch the variations of camera angles that the director used in order to compensate for the four main characters to help them appear as if they were really playing the instruments. The writing seemed to fall a bit short sometimes making some scenes a bit tiresome and some that could have made for some great moments highlighting the film and the characters.
Walken is always a treat to watch as he projects his somewhat quiet and off demeanor. Hoffman is always wonderful in whatever role he decides to bless. Keener I thought was a bit of the weakest link that seemed to attack her scenes but then submissively walk away from them leaving the audience a bit empty, wanting more. Not familiar with Ivanir but he did bring a sense of sex appeal, authority and a quiet sense of maturity to his role. Poots reminded me a bit of Scarlet Johansson in regards to her looks and yet seemed to do a pretty nice job in pulling off her big screen moments. I found myself wanting to close my eyes in the beginning of the film thanks in part to some sublime writing but when Hoffman gets involved in the affair the film finally took a more interesting approach to life in the music world. Overall an interesting film that could have given us a bit more music for the ears than history lessons for the mind. I can’t see this film doing major box office figures but with a nice ensemble cast and a deep appreciation for music it should find a niche audience in some of the smaller art house theaters. Written and yet appreciated with one and half paws out of four by Jon Patch.