A Late Quartet Review

Film Still
  • A Late Quartet film still


Hollywood A-listers pretend to play violins in this autumnal musical melodrama.

Despite its merits as a tolerable, Bergmanesque NY psychodrama, Yaron Zilberman’s faux-sophisticated dissection of artistic and romantic rot among high-rolling classical musicians highlights one of the major flaws in the art of acting.

No matter how hard they try, even Hollywood’s lightest and brightest have trouble pretending to play musical instruments on screen. Which is something of a deal breaker here, as this chronicle of the gradual decline and then eventual dissolution of a celebrated string quartet requires much pretend picking, plucking and agile fretboard gymnastics.

Even such seasoned pros as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken and Catherine Keener have trouble convincing that they truly understand what it takes to master the exorbitantly-priced antique instruments they tenderly cradle. Not only does it make it much more difficult to enjoy the post-synched music, but it damages the characters’ credibility as consummate artists being crushed under the strain of their own genius.

It also explains why writer/director Zilberman choses to topload the exploits with prolonged shouting matches and prima donna bitch sessions in order to minimise the amount of music being played.

This results in a procession of mawkish soap-opera-like twists where marital infidelities within the quartet are teased out via a series of low-rent contrivances. It’s by no means disastrous, just careful and sensitive to a tiresome tee.

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