Performance For The Mature At Heart
Carol Bowditch got her classical on to check out Performance:
The film’s premise is based around a string quartet who are still performing together after 25 years of music and friendship. The beloved senior member of the ensemble, Peter Mitchell (Christopher Walken), is diagnosed with a career-threatening disease and this begins to draw out tension in the group with the thought that the four-piece, that had been operating solidly for so long, might be altered. The changes that follow are detrimental to the characters’ personal lives, as well as a performing quartet.
I struggled with Performance. It’s a film for the mature, be that in age or in spirit. I am neither of those, with a maturity level similar to that of Father Jack, the themes of tension on a marriage, the breaking of lifelong friendships, affairs, and finally, the appreciation of classical string quartets, were kinda wasted on me. The Oscar-winning cast however, were not.
Although the film bases itself around Peter’s illness, he is supplementary to the story and does not actually have an awful lot of screentime. When shown, he is a warm and gentle paternal figure, that doesn’t rely on his usual quirky brand of humor, which I really liked. The quartet also comprises of married couple Robert Gelbart (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and Juliette Gelbart (Catherine Keener) whose relationship is tumultuous throughout. Hoffman is impressive, I hate him as husband but appreciate him as a father to his rebellious daughter Alexandra (Imogen Poots), for the distance he goes to give her everything, and then take it away when she acts up. And lastly, Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir), a controlling and obsessive character who takes his position as first violinist in the quartet far too seriously, and his role as a teacher to Alexandra not seriously enough. He faces the wrath of his poorly-chosen actions midway through the narrative.
Performance is a film that I enjoyed but I felt out of my depth with it. I have a small inkling that it will win a whole slew of awards and I’m fine with that, the performances were impressive and the story was fresh and interesting, it’s just not the flick for me.
Review by Carol Bowditch. *Performance is released in the US under the name ‘A Late Quartet’.