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A Late Quartet

By EMILY JENSEN
If Jägermeister is the quintessential beverage of rock stars, then for a string quartet it must be a vigorously shaken bottle of champagne: refined, expensive and on the verge of exploding into an effervescent puddle of melodrama. In A Late Quartet, we watch the pressurized contents of a world-renowned string quartet’s personal problems fizz over when the musicians discover their beloved cellist, Peter (Christopher Walken), has been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s. After 25 years together, the group’s dynamics are a tense, incestuous broth. Juliette (Catherine Keener) thinks of Peter as a father after spending her teen years in his and his late wife’s care. She is married to Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the second violinist, who secretly longs to overtake the role of first violinist Daniel (Mark Ivanir), a moody and pretentious virtuoso still fixated on a dalliance with Juliette prior to her marriage. It’s the drippy, succulent scandal of a soap opera set to the tune of Beethoven’s Opus 131, and with far superior acting. Walken is especially moving as Peter; his turn as a wise, loving and mentally stable musician comes as a surprise relative to his typically comedic and campy roles, but he pulls it off. A Late Quartet can at times feel like a droning catalog of white-people problems, but for the most part, it is a lovely and painful look into the lives of classical musicians and a tribute to their passionate and complicated devotion to music and, more than anything, to each other.
 
  • Running Time:
  • Release Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2012
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Critic's Score: B+
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