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.

Seven Psychopaths – LFF Review

Colin Farrell plays Marty a screenwriter struggling with his latest screenplay. His best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) runs a dog-napping with Hans (Christopher Walken) and wants to help Marty with his screenplay any way he can. Events take a turn for the worst when Billy kidnaps the dog of local mob boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson) and all manner of shooting ensues. Throw in a serial killer, quaker, and Tom Waits and you have Seven Psychopaths.

Martin McDonagh has moved on from In Bruges, a relatively small film with one location and three characters, as he now deals with a cast of dozens in a film that roams from inner-city to outer-desert and incorporates many intertwining stories both factual and fictional within the film’s universe. The result is a bombastic film constantly trying to simultaneously shock you and make you smile. Seven Psychopaths desperately wants you to think it is cool and won’t stop shooting people and swearing until you are rocking in your seat laughing and giving an approving clap.

On the surface I really enjoyed Seven Psycopaths. It was funny and contained enough fodder to stop me from becoming distracted. It felt unpredictable, fun, and… Well. Then I spoke to my friend Jon (the one with the beard, not the other one):

“I didn’t really enjoy Seven Psychopaths. I was hungry at the time and I don’t cope well with being hungry so I think that factor may have biased my experience somewhat. Seeing the Jeffrey Dahmer Files about a real psychopath hours before may have also not really put me in the mood.

Is it wrong to expect a film called Seven Psychopaths to have seven psychopaths in it instead of a bunch of characters with a penchant for being violent? Of the three main characters in the film, one is a typecast stereotype, one is contrary with their actions ultimately becoming in no way believable, and it turns out the other guy used to be interesting but is now just a thief. There are two or three interesting ideas in the film but I don’t feel like they’re really explored. Instead, they’re clumsily mashed together along with copious uses of terms such as ‘fag’, lots of throw away violence, cheap laughs, and attempts at being clever that just fall too short of the mark. It’s a dumb glossy action film with one-dimensional characters that ultimately lacks any heart or soul.

Go read The Psychopath Test, watch No Country for Old Men or In Bruges instead.”

Seven Psychopaths will reach UK cinemas on 5th December 2012 and you’ll most likely love it. Just don’t go thinking about the film afterwards.

Dark Horse – LFF Review

Dark Horse is a very odd comedy about two thirty-somethings, Abe (Jordan Gelber) and Miranda (Selma Blair), who begin an awkward romance after Abe pursues Miranda to a stalkerish degree. Neither of the two lead characters are likeable, Abe is overconfident and pathetic while Miranda is cold and selfish, yet somehow they are a good source of comedy and the film was fun to watch.

An off-beat comedy in the extreme Dark Horse indulges itself more and more as the runtime rolls on. By the end credits the quirks have become too much and the film has lost the charm it showed in the beginning. A particular bug-bear were extended dream sequences in which a normally timid secretary (Donna Murphy) becomes a cougar in Abe’s mind and essentially spells out his thoughts and the plot to Abe and the audience. It’s a classic case of “show it, don’t say it”.

Don’t get me wrong, Dark Horse was very entertaining, but sadly it left no lasting impact and by ending on a bum note, is hard to recommend. For a comedy a little different to the norm you could do a lot worse, though this film is unlikely to grace the silver screen in the UK once this festival is over.

Final thought: What a waste of Christopher Walken.