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Movie review: A Late Quartet

Updated on April 4, 2013

Sometimes, there are just interesting casting decisions made that make a film a slightly more attractive proposition. For instance, the upcoming The Place beyond the Pines will certainly have a certain demographic gagging at the bit to see it, as it stars the easy-on-the-eyes pairing of Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper.

On the surface, a film about a string quartet doesn't seem all that appealing. However, when you learn that it stars both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken, then it suddenly becomes music to the ears of a more discerning audience.

For over twenty five years, Peter (Walken), Robert (Hoffman), Juliette (Catherine Keener) and Daniel (mark Ivanir) have been performing to audiences around the world as a renowned fugue string quartet.

When Peter is diagnosed with an illness that will eventually prevent him playing the cello, he decides that it must be soon time to hang up his bow for good. This unfortunate news acts as a massive catalyst that affects every member of the group.

Robert sees it as a great opportunity to become first violinist, but Daniel thinks otherwise. This resistance sends Robert over the edge, which creates problems with Juliette, who he also just so happens to be married with.

And although Daniel is resistant to any type of change in his life, a blossoming relationship helps to broaden his horizons; it comes at a cost however, as it's a relationship that will have deeper repercussions for those closest to him.

Regardless of these obstacles, they all still feel that the quartet show should go on, one way or another.

Not long into this drama and you realise that it has a fairly rigid tempo all of its own. Whereas the music featured captures real depth with its emotional depth, the acting is kept at an even, somewhat repetitive rhythm throughout.

The fact that both Hoffman and Walken appear in it is diluted by the disappointment of them not sharing that many scenes together. Out of the four performers however, it's Walken who shines the brightest. It's yet another performance from the veteran actor that it constructed from a subtlety that just can't be ignored. Where Walken is concerned, everything is in the detail.

By comparison, Hoffman feels a little underutilised; perhaps forgoing a more standout singular performance for the sake of the ensemble. But without Hoffman completely on his game, the film as a whole is slightly underwhelming.

Director Yaron Zilberman, making his directing debut, has made a film that resonates elements of the more sombre work of Woody Allen, with his use of New York as a back drop, as well as his use of music to punctuate certain scenes. What's missing is a sense of the dramatic, with the clashing of characters coming across more as mild disagreements more than anything else. Or maybe that's just how middle class New Yorkers react.

It's worth catching for Walken alone however, as well as a bright and breezy performance by Brit Imogen Poots.

Zilberman may well have hit the mark as far as his musical timings are concerned, but as far as the drama goes, it misses one too many essential beats.

3 booms

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