Title: A Late Quartet
Director: Yaron Zilberman
If you have ever played in a band, or, just enjoy those riveting “Behind the Music” tales about musicians engaging in all the amped up drama of sex, drugs, ego, and creating the music itself, A Late Quartet will hit all the right notes for you. And yes, classical musicians can have edgy drama, too.
A four piece string ensemble comprised of two violinists (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mark Ivanier), a cellist (Christopher Walken) and whatever the hell Catherine Keener is playing (violin on performance-enhancing-drugs?), are considered the best in the world. Playing together for over twenty years, the group functions amazingly well. But as with all musical marriages, eventually there will be an assortment of issues that bubble up.
It starts with Christopher Walken being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Since the revered cello player will not perform unless he can be at his very best, he alerts the group about possibly having to step away unless the treatment can ensure his exquisite timing will not be affected. While this is understandable, it’s still a blow to the other three, as their performing season is just around the corner. And when one person has issues in a band, it becomes contagious.
Hoffman and Keener are married, and the latter is best friends with Mark Ivanier. For whatever reason, Hoffman is sick of playing second-fiddle to Ivanier’s lead violin, and inserts that a change to the performance is needed. Keener disagrees with this move, and therefore, does not back her hubby; which sends him into a funk that leads to some bad decision making. Also during this moment, the script introduces Imogen Poots, who is the daughter of Hoffman and Keener, and a fine violinist in her own right. She is taught by Ivanier, and also gets roped into the current issues/drama facing the famed quartet.
While the synopsis may read vague (purposely done), the angles crafted by the screenwriters Seth Grossman and director Yaron Zilberman, bounce effortlessly off each other. It gets woven into an interesting conundrum, that as mentioned earlier, all musicians and music historians will instantly get immersed in. The laymen will get hooked to, for the acting is too strong not to buy into the well-articulated drama, which does provide some laughs as well.
And you know what, that’s all that really needs to be said. You, the reader, should let the music (script) do the rest of the talking.