A Late Quartet – Film Review

A Late Quartet

More often than not I don’t get a chance to see a film before its release. Hard to believe though it may be, not all film distributors have yet to discover the wonder that is Mild Concern. For some films we are invited to a press/radio/niche blogger screening and for a few films like A Late Quartet this screening takes place months before the theatrical release. I saw A Late Quartet back in the haze that was 13th January 2013 and as such am relying on my notes to get me through writing this review. Below, in their entirety, are the notes in question:

So much endless talking! Slightly tedious. Just how long was it!?

Thanks for your help Past-Tim. Now allow me to extrapolate…

A Late Quartet - Christopher Walken

A Late Quartet is a drama centred around a string quartet approaching the 25th anniversary of their performing as a group. One member of the group discovers he has Parkinson’s and the group begins to unravel as old rivalries and fresh lust bubbles to the surface. The quartet comprises of Catherine Keener (my favourite actor ever), Philip Seymour Hoffman (my favourite actor ever), Christopher Walken (my favourite actor ever), and Mark Ivanir (sorry, who?) so there is a fine pedigree of comedy-drama character actors on display (along with some guy called Mark). Unfortunately the film doesn’t match the quality you would expect from this cast and instead we are left with a dry predictable drama with no sense of humour.

Hoffman and Keener play a married couple with a (crucially of legal age) daughter and Hoffman is having a predictable affair with a woman who you can’t help but feel should be totally out of his league. Keener and Egg Anne Ivanir are former lovers and there is the predictable tension this brings. You’ll never guess what happens when Ivanir’s brooding bachelor is asked to give music lessons to Keener’s attractive daughter played by Imogen Poots. Sure enough, a predictable and pretty bland affair begins.

A Late Quartet - Imogen Poots

The acting, as you would expect, is top-notch but the actors have little to get their teeth into. The numerous scenes in which they play their instruments are completely convincing to a musical dunce like me but the drama surrounding it just fell flat. Past-Tim was right; it is just endless talking, and to answer his question the running time is 105 minutes but it feels infinitely longer.

Walken is the film’s saving grace as a man losing the ability to play the music he loves and watching the quartet who should carry on his legacy allow petty rivalries to tear the group apart. Walken gives a tender performance and it is his story that pulled me through to the final scene without me doing my usual trick of falling asleep.

A truly mediocre drama that offers little relief from endless bitterness and infighting A Late Quartet is in UK cinemas from 5th April 2013.

Please Give – Review

At first I thought Please Give was a dreary drama but upon learning it was actually a comedy, a genuine funny and understated comedy, I couldn’t help but go and see it. Coming out of the screen I was incredibly happy with the film, and find it hard to find fault with it.

Please Give is a quite beautiful moving and dark comedy following one woman trying to atone for the fact that she scams the families of the deceased in order to stock her vintage furniture shop. Catherine Keener plays the part well, gradually revealing the humanity in a woman we’d otherwise have no sympathy for.

Meanwhile her daughter is struggling with the way she looks in a very understated way, and towards the end of the film Sarah Steele plays a scene with no dialogue to help her which almost broke my heart. To say any more about that would ruin the film.

The third strand of the film is taken up by the elderly neighbour of the family who sold her flat to them so they can expand their own when she dies. Her two granddaughters, Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet, often visit and take care of her and have problems of their own, but again I’ll stop short of explaining the entire film for you. Suffice to say that Hall and Peet play two wildly different characters with ease and extremely convincingly.

The entire cast, including Oliver Platt as Keener’s flawed but funny husband and Ann Morgan Guilbert as the elderly neighbour, take to their roles perfectly lending the film a very natural and believable feel.

While the film has it’s share of drama it is always very understated and the laughs are regular. In case you hadn’t realised yet I really liked Please Give; its got great actors doing great acting with a great script.

This film is good.

Out Now – 18th June 2010

Eek there’s loads of film out today so let’s cut to the chase.

This looks bad. So far I’ve only seen a short clip on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and that was bad. Normally they show the best clips to try and promote the film so it doesn’t bode well really. But if you want to see Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl play killers in suburbia being stalked by killers or some such nonsense go ahead. The only good thing to come out of this movie is vouchers for Thorpe Park. Oh dear, I’ve sold out.

Based on a mediocre sketch from Saturday Night Live that most of the UK won’t have seen I don’t see this doing too well. It’s a shame as the cast involved are all very funny and the film may be quite good. It porbably isn’t though. Better than Killers at least.

Our Family Wedding
It’s a race based comedy in which an African American and Mexican-American get married and all sorts of hilarious things happen that stem from their families being different races. Not really sure who they’re aiming this film at but I won’t be going for fear of laughing and looking racist. I worry.

Please Give
This is one film that needs to sort out it’s poster art. For a long time I was convinced this was a crappy art house film with a big message but with a bit of reading I can see I was wrong. This looks to be a comedy of the actually funny variety and stars one of our favourite actresses, Catherine Keener. Go see it, don’t let the bad publicity attempts put you off.

Wild Target
I’ve heard from trusted sources, they like Scott Pilgrim, that this film is OK and nothing more. What I can tell you besides that is that this is a British comedy filled with British actors presumably being very British. A hitman tries to retire but a beautiful thief may change his plans. I guess she succeeds or we’d have no film.

Ajami (limited release)
An Oscar nominated Israeli film following five stories acted out by non-professional actors. Something I really should see but likely won’t. Bad me.

Hierro (limited release)
A Spanish horror about a woman who’s sun goes missing. Go see it or wait two years for an American adaptation I am oh so cynically predicting.

Wild Grass (limited release)
A French comedy about a missing wallet… or something. I like French comedies, who’s going to take me?

Spotlight On – Catherine Keener

Catherine Keener is not exactly someone you would describe as “up and coming” as she has been appearing in films for over twenty years and was nominated for Oscars for her roles in Being John Malcovich and Capote. Despite her long career and award recognition I still feel Keener deserves a bit more praise.

What has brought her to my attention were her roles in last year’s Synecdoche, New York and the brilliant but difficult to watch An American Crime which I saw just a few weeks ago. In An American Crime Keener plays a seriously disturbed mother who ultimately commits some pretty foul acts against a pre-Juno Ellen Page. Despite playing such a despicable character Keener brought humanity to a role than otherwise would have been impossible to relate to.

Catherine Keener doesn’t limit herself to just roles in difficult films, Synecdoche being brilliant but lots of hard work, as she has recently been in lighter fare such as The 40 Year Old Virgin and Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. For years Keener has been for me one of many actresses who seems to be in every film yet whose name I can’t remember, but no more.

Catherine Keener is simply a great actress who hopefully one day will be talked of in the same way as Meryl Streep is now. Ignoring the horror of Julie &  Julia that is.