Friday, November 16, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: A Late Quartet

This movie review of "A Late Quartet" was written by guest blogger Liz Parker...

I was interested in seeing A Late Quartet because I am a violinist, and because of it's all-star cast, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener. I had also read an article before seeing it that said that none of the actors were familiar with playing classical instruments, so I was also interested in seeing if they would pull that off or not. Although the sounds in the film were dubbed over, the technicalities of holding and playing the instruments on screen were very accurate, and I was impressed in how real their quartet looked.

The quartet of "The Fugue" is approaching their twenty-fifth anniversary, but their cellist, Peter (Walken), has been having difficulties with his hands lately. He goes to see a specialist and she diagnoses him with early Parkinson's disease. Peter tells the quartet that this season will be his last, and that he will find them a replacement that they all like and will be able to work with. Meanwhile, the 2nd violinist in the group, Robert (Hoffman), has been having some doubts as to whether he wants to continue playing the second part, and he proposes that he and the 1st violinist, Daniel (Mark Ivanir), switch parts for each song they play, which Daniel is not too happy about. Robert and his wife, Juliette (Keener), the violist in the quartet, have been having marital problems as well, and after Robert cheats on her with his running partner, Pilar (Liraz Charhi), Juliette makes him move out.

To add to those woes, Robert and Juliette have asked Daniel to tutor his recently returned-from-college daughter, Alexandra (Imogen Poots), who is also a violinist, as she is in a quartet that is playing the same Beethoven piece that the group is playing; she, too, has the 1st violin part. Alexandra makes a move on Daniel and suddenly they find themselves in a relationship, even though he is 20+ years older than her. Because of all of these issues, the group starts to unravel, instigating conflict between its members but at the same time providing an interesting viewing experience for the audience.

My main complaint with this movie was that it moved at a rather slow pace; however, that is my complaint with many movies, especially indie movies. I enjoyed all of the classical music parts throughout, especially when they were rehearsing, and after the film passed the halfway mark, the quartet really started to have problems, which sped up the movie a bit. The main quartet players, as well as Imogen Poots, are all great in their roles, though I would expect nothing less from these actors, Walken and Hoffman especially. I was trying to see if they hold up their instruments correctly, as well, and I found no faults with any of them - they prepared well for their roles.

Yes, see this movie. If you are one who can't stand slow movies, then this might be a "Maybe" film for you, but overall its slowness was something that can be excusable. I learned later that the cast all had intense training on how to hold their new instruments before they started filming, although the 1st violinist (Ivanir) only had a week's worth of training, which is crazy to think about. I read an article online that said that at one point, Keener's character had crossed her legs while playing the viola, which is something a "real" player wouldn't have done, but aside from "nitpicky" things like that, I didn't see anything telling about their performances that gave away that they were actors holding foreign instruments, rather than professional chamber music players.

A Late Quartet is in theaters today, November 16th, and is rated R with a runtime of 105 minutes. 3 stars out of 5.

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Liz Parker is a University of Michigan graduate with a degree in Creative Writing and Literature, and she loves going to the movies. Visit her at her movie blog Yes/No Films

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