Monday, February 10, 2014

Do you really love me? Or am I just convenient?

There's going to be a moment in each of our lives where we're going to have to make the decision to hang it up, call it, walk away and/or say goodbye. If we're lucky, we'll actually get to choose this moment. It might be the end of a career, or even the end of a relationship. It could be about finally growing up, letting go or possibly even relenting and simply changing the way we've been doing things for years. I doubt many of us look forward to this moment, but the more we accept the fact that things end, the better off we'll all be.

A Late Quartet isn't exactly about this moment, but the idea permeates nearly every frame. In director Yaron Zilberman's 2012 film, a quartet of world-class musicians face the end of their legendary run. This group, known as The Fugue, has been together for over 3,000 performances, but rather abruptly, the whole thing begins to unravel.

The eldest member, cellist Peter (the legendary Christopher Walken), has come to find out he can no longer continue performing. The other three, to an extent, refuse to accept this. Jules, (Catherine Keener) who rightfully sees Peter as a father figure, is devastated more personally than professionally. Her husband, second violinist Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman), sees their rigid roles finally being bent, and uses Peter's exit as a chance to move up in the quartet's hierarchy. And finally, there's Daniel (Mark Ivanir), the founder of the group and arguably the most (self) important. For him, the music is everything, until he finally questions what he is truly passionate about. The answer, surprisingly, will tear them apart far more than Peter's departure. It will also mark the moment where each individual will decide whether or not they are ready to truly move on with their lives.

In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman's passing last week I didn't know what to do other than see something with him in it. Many of my blogging friends wrote great tributes and truly mourned the loss of the acting legend, but for me, I just wanted to immerse myself in his talent yet again. And as much as I wish he were still alive, that unfortunately isn't the case. His death was certainly devastating but I honestly feel that Hoffman will truly live forever, for the simple fact that even in the smallest of roles, he was real. His performances, though often on the edge, were almost tangible. On screen, he was a man that utterly came alive. Even better, that emotion and life sometimes exploded in an instant, and often out of nowhere. You never had to buy Philip Seymour Hoffman as an actor, because he wasn't selling anything. He didn't need to.

It's likely that I would have never watched A Late Quartet otherwise, but am certainly glad I did. I know little of classical music and even less of the structure of a string quartet. But twenty minutes in, I was enthralled. Likely this is due to the wonderful performances (everyone delivers), but the plot, a bit heavy handed at times, is shockingly loaded with intrigue. With all of five characters (well, maybe six), it's remarkable how much is going on. Also remarkable, is how many of these smart individuals do something so f--king stupid, but altogether believable as well.

Speaking of stupid, let's see what the Yays and Boos are up to. It appears they've been up for hours practicing their flutophones (as they were known in Hawai'i, the rest of you may prefer the term 'recorder' because you're, you know, lame) in an attempt to finally impress you. Hope you like Three Blind Mice...

  • Daniel, as a teacher, is a bad mofo. So intense, so hardcore. When he calls out young Alexandra, I almost died.
  • Speaking of Robert and Jules' daughter, her speech was fantastic. She could have been talking about the actors, too.
  • To be fair, many of the actors have some pretty cutting speeches as well. Hoffman gets a few, Keener has at least one ass-kicker, and Walken rolls 'em out left and right.
  • But the best? Peter tells a fantastic story about Pablo Casals that is absolutely perfect. No bullshit, these are words to live by.
  • From that great moment, things turn to shit. Why is this a Yay? Because the shit storm occurs in spectacular fashion. In a movie about classical musicians, we get fisticuffs. Oh yeah, bitches get cut. Okay, well, not really. But somebody gets punched and it's fantastic.
  • Pilar. Wow. You have a really nice ass. Well done.
  • Thanks, The Fugue. Thanks. It's refreshing to know I already have next year's fantasy football team name picked out.
  • Imogen Poots. Fine actress. Pretty girl. F--king awesome name.
  • And finally, as much as I was in it for Philip Seymour Hoffman, for me, this was the Christopher Walken show. Sure, I could probably listen to him say the word okay for a hundred minutes and still leave happy, but Peter is a great character. His finale was perfect. Maybe I had a heavy heart to begin with, but his final scene crushed me.
  • Robert. Dude, you're kind of the man, but you're kind of a scumbag, too.
  • Speaking of, Daniel, the above applies to you as well.
  • Making your significant other breakfast in bed. Sounds good, right? No. Not at all. Terrible idea.
  • Robert, in a major argument with his rival/friend Daniel, pleads with him to Unleash your passion! This turns out to be some of the worst advice ever given in cinematic history. Nice going, Pops.
  • There's a point where Keener's Jules is pretty much getting it from all sides. Even though I'm not a huge Keener fan, this is unacceptable. That's no way to treat your mother. This lady has had it tough enough.
  • On that note, telling your mom she should have gotten an abortion? Huge Boo.
  • And finally, I'm going to quietly jeer any movie that so clearly reminds me that we're all on the clock, so to speak, both personally and professionally. Lives will change and ultimately lives will end, which is fine, but under the circumstances, that's a lesson I probably could have used a different day.
Sadly, everything must end. In the fictional case of The Fugue. that's a difficult fact for a lot of people. And while watching A Late Quartet, I was consistently reminded of a much deeper sense of loss, one that I know will resonate with thousands.

Respectfully, how about we change gears and end something that will cheer everyone up, make us all feel a lot better? 



  1. Ready.

    Lovely review, and the best tribute you can pay to Hoffman. Interesting idea for a film, with such praise to Walken from you, I just might have to watch this. ;)

    1. Thanks.

      If you at all dig Walken (which I'm pretty sure applies to everyone on the planet, I would certainly recommend it. It's nice to see him play sort of an ordinary guy. Actually, in the foursome, he's the one who has his shit together the most.

      Let me know if you end up watching it!

  2. I've never actually seen this one of his. Now I want to based on your review. I've thrown a few of his films I haven't seen, or haven't seen in a long time into my Netflix queue.

    1. I actually really liked it, but it could be a combination of feeling very sentimental combined with the fact that for a second, this one looked like work. Sometimes, simply pressing play proves to be a lot harder than it should...

      ...but yeah, check it out and let me know. I'd be down for some Ramblings on it for sure.

  3. Very good review. I enjoyed this movie, as well. You're absolutely right about Walken. This is his show!

    1. Thanks, Wendell. Walken is consistently fantastic in everything (if not a tad ridiculous), but this role allows him to be something I rarely see him as which I appreciated.

  4. It's one of the few recent movies Hoffman did I haven't seen yet, but I'll definitely give it a chance. I love Walken, he almost managed to make Seven Psychopaths watchable, so he can make anything worthwhile.

    1. I thought it was interesting, and seriously, Walken is so good. I love that guy in everything, too.

  5. Great review. I haven't seen this one yet, but your review just convinced me to watch it soon.

    1. Thanks! I hope you like it. Come back and let me know if you get the chance.