A Late Quartet

Directed By: Yaron Zilberman

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir, Imogen Poots, and Wallace Shawn

Harmony is a difficult thing to achieve.  In musical groups, it's all about having one's instrument in tune and being in sync with other group members.  In life, it's about navigating multiple views, competing agendas, and human imperfection.  In Yaron Zilberman's A Late Quartet, harmony is even harder to achieve amongst the musicians in the string quartet known as The Fugue.  Harmony among these string players depends on more than just how well they can make music.  It depends upon whether or not they can get their lives straight.

Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken), Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir), and Robert and Juliette Gelbart (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener) are members of a world famous string quartet known as The Fugue.  After 25 years and more than 3,000 concerts together, these four extremely talented musicians are getting ready for another season together.  There's just one problem.  Peter has been having trouble playing lately at practice.  He's had shaky hands.  After visiting with his doctor, he learns that he's exhibiting the early symptoms of Parkinson's disease.  Because of this, Peter has decided that the group's first concert this season will be his last.

When the group learns of Peter's ailment, there's obviously a great deal of sadness.  However, Robert, a second violinist for the last two decades, is looking to change his lot in life.  With Peter's looming retirement, he thinks he's found his opportunity.  He proposes that he alternate between first and second violinist parts with Daniel to give the group a new sound.  When Daniel and Juliette wholeheartedly reject his proposal, Robert becomes disillusioned with the quartet.  With Peter's ailment and Robert's disillusionment, the future of the Fugue is in jeopardy.  Meanwhile, Robert and Juliette's daughter Alexandra (Imogen Poots), an aspiring violinist, begins taking lessons from Daniel.

While the Fugue may be dead on arrival, A Late Quartet is all about its resurrection.  Director Yaron Zilberman throws every obstacle fathomable in the group's way whether professional, physical, or marital.  To prevent the group from ever finding harmony again, the hits just keep on coming throughout the film.  Like Beethoven's seven-movement masterpiece "Opus 131", Zilberman attacks any prospects of the group's survival without pause.  Ailments, backstabbing, and scandals fuel A Late Quartet.  Overall, this makes for a very rich and riveting drama that doesn't disappoint.

All the actors deliver strong performances throughout the film, but there are inevitably a couple of standouts — Philip Seymour Hoffman and Imogen Poots. Fresh from an incredible performance in The Master, Hoffman continues to do what he does best on the big screen.  As Robert Gelbart, he brings a certain depth and complexity to his character that none of the other actors bring to theirs.  As Alexandra Gelbart, Imogen Poots continuously brings an outsider's perspective to the film, which makes her invaluable.  Given that she's the only principal cast member who is not a member of the Fugue, she has a unique presence on screen and uses it to the best of her ability in a very emotional performance.

Overall, A Late Quartet is an outstanding film featuring impressive performances from the cast and a completely engaging story.  While the music is a very prominent, enjoyable part of the film, it's the drama Zilberman infuses into the film that makes it great.  A Late Quartet gets a 0.03% rating.  Have a few wine coolers with this one.