Movie Review: 'A Late Quartet' -- 3 stars
A Late Quartet
Directed by Yaron Zilberman
Starring Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir
"A Late Quartet" is a classical Upper West Side-set wintertime drama, paralleling scenes of a snowy Central Park and images of frozen city streets with a story about what might be the final days of a famed string quartet.
Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir play the Fugue Quartet members, who have played together for 25 years. Their group is thrown into turmoil when Walken's Peter announces his retirement because of a Parkinson's disease diagnosis. Submerged personal disputes erupt, egos clash and each member is forced to grapple with the possibility of an ugly, unwanted change in their comfortable lives.
The movie offers the sort of polished, "art house" experience you'd expect from a film inspired by Beethoven's Opus 131. Director Yaron Zilberman operates in broad melodramatic strokes, but they fit the old-fashioned contours of his story. The film could be seen as the cinematic equivalent of a crisp New York Philharmonic performance, with each movement of Beethoven's quartet reflected in the narrative's flow.
In another context, the illicit affairs, physical confrontations and verbal fireworks that make up the heart of the drama here would be right at home on daytime television. But the actors give such strong performances, with Walken in particular smartly underplaying his "Walken-ness," that the travails hit home.
In the end, however inconsequential the struggles of pretentious artists might be, "A Late Quartet" depicts the passage of time, the specter of death and the promise of rebirth, in time-honored dramatic form.