A Late Quartet - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

A Late Quartet Reviews

Page 1 of 16
Super Reviewer
June 27, 2013
A quartet's leader falls ill as marital strife hits two other members.
Essentially an acting master class, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Christopher Walken all turn in remarkable performances that should be the model for any young actor. Walken, especially, in his later years continues to show a sensitive, emotional side.
However, the film is poorly paced. Particularly, after a comic scene in which the stoic, severe Daniel is forced to gather his clothes and slip out the fire escape, we get another tear-ridden scene filled with pop psychology and emotional effusions. What is more, the character look like they've been crying or are about to cry is almost every scene.
Overall, though I like the work by the actors, I think a skilled director could have turned this into a truly fine film.
Super Reviewer
½ April 22, 2013
Maybe I needed to be a classical music fan in order to enjoy this film. Wonderful actors. Nicely done..but I found the story slow, tedious, and rather pointless.
Super Reviewer
March 2, 2013
Movies about violinists aren't usually my thing, but looking over the cast I figured I would give it a shot. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, and Mike Ivanir star as a string quartet with a lot of drama. 1 is retiring because of Parkinsons, 2 are in a failing marriage, and the other is sleeping with the married couples daughter. It's all made for tv type of stuff, but the performances set it a few steps above. Hoffman shines most, but the rest all do very well. Overall, it is what you would expect. Slow and geared towards a much older audience. It's not a bad movie, but it's not a very entertaining movie either. I liked some parts of it, but was ready for it to be over halfway through. If you like classical music or are much older than 29, then you might like this. Otherwise, wait til your older.
Super Reviewer
December 21, 2012
A Late Quartet is a superlatively acted, well written, intense and downbeat melodrama. It's quiet and heartfelt, though probably too intellectual and pretentious for the escapist movie goer, or if you feel like a romp where you can turn your brain off at the movies, don't go (or rent).

It's the story of the labyrinthan and conflicting relationships between the members of a veteran string quartet, with loyalty, jealously, sex, and ambition pushing the envelope on everything. The catalytic event is a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, forcing the retirement of the groups cellist father figure, played by Christopher Walken.

Every performance is a gem, but Christopher Walken is a revelation, since he usually plays weird over the top surreal clowns (albeit compellingly each time). Here he plays a real man, facing death and decline with his whole heart and soul on display. P.S. Hoffman does his usual angst filled disapointment filled character with his usual skill, as his wife, Catherine Keener gets to do a more muted but well calibrated take on on her bitchy brutally honest but soulful charcter, Israeli Mark Ivanir plays the star lead violinst, a distant, arrogant but alpha male with sensitivity, I haven't seen him before in anything. English up and coming Imogene Poots plays the daughter of the couple, who enters into a sexual relationship with Ivanir (his mother's old flame) causing the group to almost flame out.

As much as I loved it, be warned the movie involves lots of talk about Beethoven and classical music that may bore some viewers (I loved it). Further, the film which feels very real most of the time, depends on French Farce like coincidences and meolodramatic over the top tropes to advance its story, which may annoy some viewers hooked up on realism. First time feature writer/director Yaron Zilberman does a wondeful job here, and I look forward to his next film.

Finally, the wonder that is Beethoven's opus 131 is the star of the show, and its melancholic, mournful yet life affirming strains are lived up and matched by this terrific chamber film.
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ November 16, 2012
"A Late Quartet" is a magnificent film, the best I've seen in 2012 thus far. It reminds me of when "In the Bedroom" was released in 2001. From out of nowhere, a filmmaker no one has heard of explodes onto the world-cinema stage with a quiet, spectacularly artful near-masterpiece.

"A Late Quartet" was directed and co-written by Yaron Zilberman, only his second film. His first film was a 2004 feature-length documentary called "Watermarks," about an Austrian sports club that was a training ground for Olympians. Shut down by the Nazis in 1938, its mostly Jewish members were scattered across the world but reunited by Zilberman for the making of the film.

With "A Late Quartet," his first fictional film, Zilberman explores the world of top-flight classical music. A world-famous string quartet is approaching its 20th anniversary. The stresses and strains of, in a sense, being married to each other for so long are starting to show. Much has been said over the years about the strains of being in a rock band for many years, where a handful of individuals have their personal, economic, and creative lives completely interwoven. But little has been said about this in other musical worlds. Until now. "A Late Quartet" brilliantly captures what this might be like.

The quartet members are played by three famous actors and one lesser-known but equally powerful actor. Mark Ivanir (whom I've never heard of until now) plays the founder of the quartet and lead violinist. The others are played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (second violinist), Catherine Keener (viola), and Christopher Walken (cello).

All are wonderful, but it was a special thrill to see Walken as the cellist. Known for playing action-movie sociopaths and other various and sundry nutjobs, Walken at long last comes in from the wild to play a highly civilized, bookish man. There is no crazy in his character. Walken can't rely on histrionics here. He's got to convey his character in an under-stated way, and he does it masterfully. I'd like to see him nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work in this film.

One scene in particular has stuck with me. Walken's character was recently widowed. His wife was an accomplished opera singer. One night, when he is feeling most alone in his big empty apartment, he sits in the dark listening to one of her albums. The grief and loneliness register on his face in a way that shook me greatly.

One of the many things I love about "A Late Quartet" is that its characters go through the same kind of traumas and struggles that you and I go through. Adultery, lust, career advancement, jealousy, cross-generational relationships, juggling career and family, youth, aging, illness, death, cruelty toward those you love the most.

Look at that list. Those are just some of the themes that come up in "A Late Quartet," and yet it doesn't seem over-stuffed. The film breathes, flowing with the normal rhythms of everyday life. It's also not particularly long: 100 minutes. Zilberman is such a masterful filmmaker that he doesn't waste a second. Every move has meaning. Every turn of the corner involves a gentle revelation of what this quasi-family is going through. Its secrets are revealed in the quiet, understated way of a great piece of chamber music. It's not in your face; it's in your hands.

The film takes an unusual context, a string quartet, where four adults and their families lead exceptionally intertwined lives in order to show in sharper relief the kinds of things with which everyone struggles. It explores so many aspects of life, gets one pondering about so many elements of one's own life, and does this elegantly and artfully. In other words, "A Late Quartet" is a major work of art.

As a backdrop, there are numerous reflections on Beethoven's difficult life, as this quartet specializes in Beethoven. This provides beautiful resonance with other time periods, expanding the reach of the film.

What of the film's flaws? Yes, there are a couple. There are one or two moments when the quartet's struggles come across as shrill squabbling, and the issues they're fighting about sometimes feel predictable and reminiscent of a soap opera. I would have appreciated Zilberman working a bit more to inject an element of surprise into the story. The entanglement between the lead violinist and the daughter of the second violinist did once or twice seem predictable, similar to many soap operas we've seen before.

But these moments constitute about 2% of the film. At all other times, "A Late Quartet" is superb.
Super Reviewer
April 4, 2013
Daniel (Ivanir), Peter (Walken), and married couple Robert (Hoffman) and Juliette (Keener) form 'The Fugue Quartet', New York's most respected string quartet. With the quartet's 25th anniversary approaching, a number of events conspire to tear the group apart. Cello player Peter is diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson's disease, rendering his hands incapable of the more complex expressions of his instrument. Robert is unhappy with, literally in this case, playing second fiddle to first violinist Daniel and falls out with Juliette when he forces her to admit she doesn't think he has the skills to lead the quartet. Juliette herself is becoming increasingly estranged from her daughter Alexandra (Scarlet Johansson lookalike Poots), who rebels against her mother by conducting an affair with Daniel.
For first time director Zilberman, whose only previous credit is the 2004 swimming documentary 'Watermarks', the task of directing such a trio of acting heavyweights as Hoffman, Walken and Keener must have been a considerably intimidating one. The same can be said for the relatively unknown Ukrainian actor Ivanir, the odd one out on a roster of top quality American acting talent. Both men hold their own admirably. Casting an unknown for the part of Daniel was an inspired choice as his character, a Russian immigrant, is himself something of an outsider amongst the quartet. A familiar face in the role wouldn't have conveyed this quite so convincingly. Equally impressive is the young English actress Poots, who gets some of the film's most dramatic scenes. She may bear a physical resemblance to Scarlet Johansson but, unlike the American star, she can act. Hoffman and Keener are brilliant, as you would expect, but the standout is Walken, here allowed the opportunity to play a real character and not just a parody of himself.

Zilberman wisely gives his cast freedom, employing what Spielberg refers to as a "quiet camera", eschewing any flashy camerawork. On this evidence, he's a director of some promise. Unfortunately, his script, co-written with Seth Grossman, lets him down. Every scenario on display feels like one we've seen countless times before. The musician who is slowly losing the use of his hands? The daughter who accuses her artist mother of not being around her enough during her childhood? The performer tortured by a lack of recognition of his talents? All stale as June bread on an August picnic.
While its story is nothing we haven't seen before, the performances from its ensemble cast and some stunning work by legendary cinematographer Frederick Elmes make 'A Late Quartet' a worthwhile watch. As a scriptwriter though, Zilberman could heed the advice of that old musician's joke, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!"
Super Reviewer
November 12, 2012
At the first rehearsal for the Fugue Quartet, Peter(Christopher Walken), the cellist, feels something is not quite right and requests an adjournment. This is about all they can agree on, however, as Robert(Philip Seymour Hoffman) wants to supplant Daniel(Mark Ivanir) as first violin while making the acquaintance of Pilar(Liraz Charhi), a flamenco dancer, in Central Park. Otherwise, Robert and his wife Juliette(Catherine Keener), who plays viola in the quartet, have a grown daughter, Alex(Imogen Poots), who is herself a musician in training.

Right off the bat, "A Late Quartet" has certain things going for it like a great cast(nobody does thankless as well as Catherine Keener while it is nice to see Christopher Walken cast so against type), good music and intelligent thoughts on important themes like mortality. But sadly, it is not as good as it should have been due to its being forced, especially in its cliched soap operatic subplots that lead into a surreal climax, the more so after a little research. For example, Peter is already suffering from the death of the love of his life which could alone cause him to reexamine his life, so why also burden him with Parkinson's? At the same time, Alex's outburst comes as a breath of fresh air with its sudden injection of honesty into the proceedings.
Super Reviewer
March 14, 2013
Throw Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, an against type Christopher Walken and some European guy together and you are bound to have something memorable. Throw in the fact that they are members of a long standing quartet who have relied on each other for years and it makes the drama sizzle as things unravel. Great acting to behold.
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2013
A Late Quartet manages to tackle what is a very niche subject matter, that of classical composition and quartet orchestration, seemingly appealing only to a select audience, and yet manages to widen its reach to be a truly successful drama. It does this without ever sacrificing its indie sensibilities, or dumbing down the inner-workings of the group, but rather does this with an emphasis on the characters and their dynamics. The result is a film that never ceases to be engaging, and one that feels both emotionally raw and poignant.

To pull off such a feat, a superb cast is needed. A Late Quartet masters this, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as his usual brilliant self, Catherine Keener inhibiting her role perfectly, Christopher Walken having a refreshingly straight performance, and Mark Ivanir having one of the more calculated and interesting performances of the film. All of the actors have palpable chemistry with each other, which is very much needed for the film's many melodramatic moments. Their exchanges feel real, their intensity is undeniable. The film's smart script, which focuses on characterizations, allows the actors the necessary room to breathe, an especially daunting task for an ensemble cast and a shorter film.

One should not go in to A Late Quartet expecting a clinic on how a Quartet is run, or the finer points that such music involves. This is simply a background to a moving story on the lives of a group of inter-connected people at a crossroads. Taken on these merits, A Late Quartet is a strong success, smartly written, executed well, and appropriately moving.

4/5 Stars
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ February 14, 2013
Huh, there are people out there who say that not a whole lot of music critics out there are actually good musicians, yet here is Lester Bangs, playing one mean violin, when he does, in fact, show up, that is. Man, first Madonna is a couple of hours late to her own show, and now even our string quartets are struggling with punctuality, probably because they're held back by their silly little problems like crumbling friendships, sexual tension's coming to a head and Parkinson's disease. Shoot, as if it wasn't hard enough to distinguish Christopher Walken and Christopher Lloyd, two eccentric older gentlemen with crazy hair, now Walken has done gone and gotten himself a mean case of the Michael J. Fox disease, but only in this film, so don't get too scared, Walken fans. Really, if anyone involved in this film has serious issues in real like, it's well, Imogen Poots for being pretty yet still haunted by the last name Poots (By the ways, her middle name is Gay; what is wrong with her parents?), as well as the poor sucker who's still keeping RKO Pictures alive in hopes of getting it back into the public eye, because, come on, how many of you even knew that this RKO production even existed? Well, it's still nice to see them kicking, as well as keeping it old-fashioned, because even their latest film is essentially a rock band break-up drama, only with a string quartet, rather than a rock band. Of course, if nothing else is old-fashiond about this film, then it's its old-fashioned melodrama. Eh, whatever, I still like this film just fine, though not quite as much as I would like to, because melodrama is hardly its only problem.

At just over 100 minutes, this character drama appears to run a reasonably comfortable length on paper, and often is in execution at quite a few times, yet there are still spots that feel a touch undercooked, with development especially being too tight for its own good, because outside of occasions in which expository dialogue goes crowbarred in (Oh man, Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a confrontation speech to Catherine Keener nearly at the hour mark that is bloated to no end with borderline random little-known facts), as well as even an awkwardly forced sequence in which our lead quartet watches a documentary on them that outlines their origin, there is hardly any bit of development to this film, whose driving characters are portrayed well enough to sustain a fair degree of your investment, but not with enough genuine meat in the story structure department for you to gain all that firm of a grip on things. What further distances the impact of drama resonance is, as I said, its going haunted by melodrama, which isn't so exceedingly immense that you feel as though you're watching Hallmark filler, but very firmly secured, growing greater and greater as plot unravels, until, after a while, genuineness slips just enough for you to go thrown off. Sure, there is enough inspiration in direction and acting for emotional resonance to feel more genuine that the drama itself at times, but inspiration in execution of flawed concept structuring can only do so much to battle back issues that were established from the pen-to-paper stages, and sure enough, with histrionics come predictability and issues in full dramatic kick. What further throws off your full engagement value with this film's various subplots is, of course, inconsistency in the focus on these subplots, which aren't tossed all over the place, but much to unevenly handled, to where certain plot layers go pushed too far into away for their return to be all that organic, and that really messes with the film's momentum, though perhaps not as much as a degree of aimlessness. While the film definately shaves off some time by scrapping much development, lost time all too often goes made up for through padding, made all the more glaring by slow spells that, against my fears, rarely, if ever slip into dullness, but help in giving plotting a kind of aimless feel that brings all other flaws in story structure to light. There are a fair deal of moments in this film that are genuinely strong, but there are too many issues in this film's decent, but underdeveloped, melodramatic and even aimlessly padded script, whose issues stand as just pronounced enough to hold back the final product's full potential. Still, much like the band, the audience plays on, or at least would be hard pressed to not, because as improvable as this film is in plotting and drama, its high notes keep you coming back to a flawed story that still keeps up a reasonable degree of dramatic sharpness, as well as musical sharpness.

If this film is going to keep up its integrity as a study on a string quartet, it's going to need to really play up classical string musicality, and does so quite well, with the Brentano String Quartet supplying this film's soundtrack with fine renditions of many an excellent classical piece, especially Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131, a piece whose being played in this film that discusses, if not all-out rather heavily focuses upon it on more than a few occasions, helps in keeping you grounded in the final product. Sure, this film's music isn't sweepingly dynamic, much less strikingly powerful, nor is it featured all that often, but this lovely soundtrack smoothly breathes some degree of life into this film, helping in keeping it lively, and helping in reinforcing thematic weight, while what reinforces dramatic weight are the fair deal of high spots in this film's story. The film is too flawed in its story structure and dramatic structuring, getting to be aimless and melodramatic, so of course potential is diluted, but not so much so that it can be ignored, as this film's plot concept, while not too extraordinary, or even all that refreshing, has enough conceptual kick to its intelligence and humanity to keep you, to one degree or another, intrigued. The value of this film's concept is all too often betrayed, but still stands firm enough to hold your attention, while your investment goes adequately sustained by what is done right in the directorial efforts of Yaron Zilberman, who doesn't do too much to compensate for the missteps in his and Seth Grossman's script, but keeps up enough juice in the air to keep you reasonably entertained throughout the film, until we come to a moment in which Zilberman wakes up and delivers on genuine dramatic resonance, which stands to have more to it, as far as quanitity and quality are concerned, but gives this film its share of truly strong moments, including the ending, which is still too abrupt to not feel rather offputting, but would have gone horribly wrong if Zilberman didn't handle it with such unexpected genuineness that cleverly and rather deeply draws from atmosphere with enough attention to delicacy to comfortably tie everything around, or at least as much as it can with its abruptness, and deliver a pretty rewarding final note to a flawed, but generally dramatically engaging movement. Zilberman, as director, does only so much, but what he does do ultimately proves to be enough to get the final product by as decent, with golden occasions, some of which go carried, not just by Zilberman, but by a certain strength that stands as consistent throughout this film. If there was more acting material to this film, then we would be looking at some excellent performances that rank among some of your better ones of 2012, but as things stand, this film fails only to put its excellent cast to good use, as each performance feels genuine, with emotional range and layers that help our performers in defining their undercooked characters as humanly compelling, and by extension, probably more than this film's script deserves. This film's script isn't bad, or even mediocre, being genuinely decent, but still too flawed for the film to achieve the overall goodness that it almost claims, thanks to inspired performances, on and off of the screen, that hit just enough to make this film a nevertheless enjoyable one, with occasions of strength that stand to be a bit more recurring.

To bring down the final note, this film find its potential undercut by considerable underdevelopment that distances dramatic resonance about as much as the melodramatic touches that grow greater and greater as the film progresses, and aimlessly so, thanks to the bland padding that gives you enough time to meditate upon shortcomings and find that the final product doesn't quite hit as many high notes as it should, which isn't to say that this movement doesn't go smooth enough to sustain some degree of your investment, boasting a strong soundtrack, as well as a story concept that goes handled well enough by Yaron Zilberman, as director, and carried far enough by strong performances, to make "A Late Quartet" a reasonably entertaining and sometimes impacting drama, in spite of its shortcomings.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
½ October 15, 2012
"A Late Quartet" is as basic as dramas get these days. Based around a quartet with a questionable future, each character faces a different obstacle to overcome. Unraveled in the most basic of ways, the heft of this film falls on the shoulders of its veteran cast, who raise this film out of the doldrums of dry drama. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken are at their best, effortlessly playing the most interesting characters. With little connection to Mark Ivanir, he is able to peak my interest and produce a respectable performance as the least known of the group. Imogen Poots shines in her roll as well, bringing a perfect blend of innocence and maturity to her role, a character that could easily have been thrown away becomes relevant because of the heart put into her. Even though the film stays at a constant lull, with these big stars, "A Late Quartet" becomes something slightly more than just another drama.
Super Reviewer
November 13, 2012
Proving once again that creativity thrives in chaos, A Late Quartet dives into the deep end of artistic and emotional angst that's intriguing and irksome simultaneously. Christopher Walken performs a master class of wonderful nuanced acting while PSH proves that you don't need to be the Master to shine. Very well layered narrative. Nice shots of NYC in winter. (11-13-12)
½ July 8, 2014
It's a shame. A Late Quartet had such potential to be an involved character study on how a string quartet works, at the same time providing an excellent repertoire of chamber music to be featured in the film. Instead, the movie resorts to melodrama and soap opera-like plot points to fill its two hours. The other huge shame is the talent wasted. With great actors such as P.S. Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener, how did the film go so badly? If they couldn't breathe life into it, no actors can.

From a music standpoint, the film also failed to meet expectations. Now I didn't expect to hear Beethoven Opus 131 uncut, but there was no variation to what they played. They never played anything else than that one piece- very unrealistic for a string quartet of that magnitude. Also, I feel bad for the "coaches" who had to train these actors to play the instruments, because they did a horrible job. No one held their instrument right, and in no way could've produced the sound that was heard in the film. I don't expect Philip Seymour Hoffman to be able to play a concerto, but I wish he could've been taught to fake it better; that goes for all of them.

For music lovers, this film is not the right fit.
½ November 21, 2012
Thank god for the talented cast because I was not a fan of this script. It's slowly paced, and uber melodramatic. The acting couldn't even save some of the scenes, particularly the mother/daughter fight between Catherine Keener and Imogen Poots. The ladies gave it their best, and the emotion/feeling was there, but the words they were saying were ridiculous. It's a shame because it's such an interesting concept. I got what they were going for. Seeing the inner workings of the group and everything they went through juxtaposed with seeing them sitting on stage performing was interesting. And they all had some great moments. I didn't love Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, but he at least made him watchable. Now Christopher Walken, I did enjoy as the oldest member of the quartet. Also, the quartet music is beautiful. But overall, I'm still on the fence as to how I feel about this one.
May 14, 2014
If there is a decent movie about the love of music, I am on board. Unfortunately, 'A Late Quartet' instead focuses on melodrama which sometimes across as badly acted. The cast is full of talented players, with only Christopher Walken standing out as the leader of a world-renowned string quartet. His ability to show his wisdom but also pain in his personal circumstances is great. Even Phillip Seymour Hoffman is not able to play a redeemable character with the wishy-washy script by Seth Grossman and Zaron Zilberman. The music is featured enough to the point where you will not completely dislike 'A Late Quartet,' but there's ultimately too much bad drama to completely redeem itself.
March 3, 2014
I'd been wanting to see this since it premiered at tiff 2012, i mean id watch that cast in anything, walken is great here, i liked his character the best, and its one of his best performances, the other 3 are all good, tho they all ended up annoying me in one way or another, and it's got my new crush imogen poots in it, sadly without her charming british accent, overall its a solid drama, and has some good music, tho makes me never want to be a musician, looks like a shitty pretentious life
February 6, 2014
It had amazing performances from Catherine Keener and Phillip Seymour Hoffman that was enough for me to enjoy it. The weaker points were the story but the performances make up for that.
½ November 18, 2013
Really good, Walken doesn't have much screen time, but does a great job with what he has. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, of course. Mark Ivanir was a late replacement, but fills out the cast well.
August 24, 2013
A nice film about a string quartet struggling to stay together as one of its members faces a grim medical diagnosis. When the film is focused on the dynamics of the quartet, it's great. Unfortunately, the film also branches off into soapier fare, which felt added on. Walken does great as the ailing quartet member. I figured going in that it would be difficult for actors to look realistic playing their instruments and I was right. Recommended.
Page 1 of 16