This past week, I’ve been in that strange limbo that occurs when you’re coming back to the life of the living after a bout with the flu. Fever has subsided, as has that initial horror where even your hair follicles hurt. “Venturing out” means moving from the bed to the sofa, but not much farther.
It was in this haze of semi-consciousness that I determined re-entry into reality might be well-served by staying awake long enough to watch a Netflix movie. I still didn’t have the presence of mind to consider taking vital steps like getting dressed or driving a car, both requirements for seeing one of the offerings at the local theatre.
Everybody knows that Netflix works like Google ads. Some magic formula of mathematical mysteries pulls a suggestion list from literally thousands of films. What popped up was “A Late Quartet,” an independent film released in 2012. This perfect jewel of a film never received wide-spread distribution although its ensemble cast includes heavy-weights Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Thank you, logarithms.
Whether you’re in some kind of recovery mode or not, give yourself a little gift and take a look at this intelligent, insightful film. You’ll be glad you did. Discover a world closed to the vast majority of us, that of the classically-trained musician.
Four string musicians, who originally met at Julliard, have been playing together as The Fugue Quartet for over twenty years when celloist Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken) discovers the devastating news that he has Parkinson’s Disease. After more than 3,000 concerts, everything’s about to change, and it won’t all be about the music.
The lives of all four members are inextricably woven together in a tapestry that involves not only music, but also love, revenge, marriage, mistrust, disappointment, sex, and a daughter. Second violinist Robert Gelbart (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is married to violist Juliette Gelbart (Catherine Kenner). When their daughter Alexandra (Imogen Poots) finds herself in love with the quartet’s first violinist Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir), an emotional rift begins to occur that will threaten the very existence of The Fugue. With everything uncertain as to whether or not Mitchell will be replaced, the in-fighting and drama strike the loudest notes.
The ensemble cast of Ivanir, Hoffman, Walken, and Keener create a beautifully balanced dynamic as the drama unfolds. Big emotions and big egos play out against the intense backdrop of the musicians’ world of practice, perfection, and performance. Music is everything, and ultimately, everybody’s seeking harmony of one kind or another.
Rated R for language and some sexuality.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.