Christopher Walken stars as a talented cellist in 'A Late Quartet'

'Quartet' follows a group of musicians that's disrupted by the health problems of one of their members.

Mark Blinch/Reuters
Christopher Walken (l.) and Imogen Poots (r.) star in 'A Late Quartet.'

Very few movies have ever dealt with the inner workings of professional classical musicians – the best are probably “The Basileus Quartet” and “Intimate Lighting” – so it’s a letdown that Yaron Zilberman’s “A Late Quartet,” which boasts a terrific cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir, and Christopher Walken, doesn’t live up to its promise.

The actors are playing longstanding members of a famed string quartet whose future is in disarray following the news that Walken’s cellist will have to step down for health reasons.

Zilberman’s conceit is that these players, who mesh so beautifully in their music-making, are discordant in their personal lives. Those lives are constructed for maximum messiness, turning what might have been resonant drama into high-class soap opera.

Of the cast, the standout is Walken, who gives a performance of superlative grace amid all the hectoring. Grade: B- (Rated R for language and some sexuality.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.