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Performance

As their 25th season together begins, world-famous string quartet “The Fugue” is almost at breaking point. Cellist, Peter Mitchell (played by Christopher Walken) is the leader of the quartet, both musically and – as he’s the oldest and has always been the most reliable and sensible – in their lives. Daniel Lerner (by Mark Ivanir) always First Violinist, has been supported since inception by Second Violinist Robert Gelbart (by Philip Seymour Hoffman). Robert’s wife Juliette (by Catherine Keener) is a violinist also. They are in rehearsals for the new season when Peter tells them he has health problems so may not be able to play the full Tour. The quartet are immediately and deeply disrupted by this – but each member must deal with the shock in their own way. Who could they possibly get to replace the irreplaceable Peter? To this point, although they hadn’t realised it, the dynamic between the four is a delicate balance, but now it is seemingly self-destructing with no way to save it. With inexplicable timing, Robert wants the group to promote him to First Violinist and he expects Juliette to support him, but their marriage isn’t as strong as it once was. Then their daughter Alexandra (by Imogen Poots), also a musician, becomes involved – but will this help? … and what lies in the future for the highly regarded quartet?

I found this movie a little too dark and brooding to be really enjoyable. It’s one of those movies where nobody is ever happy, but nevertheless the production is marvellous. Perhaps that’s why it was hard to watch – because the raw emotions of each relationship are keenly observed and very well portrayed. Excuse the pun, but performances are all excellent – we so clearly see and try to understand the complexities of the group’s matrix of interactions – both explicit and tacit – and that’s good. The cast is very strong, particularly Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener as the couple having their marriage crumble as if they are spectators, not participants. This movie was released in the US as “A Late Quartet” but the name was changed elsewhere to prevent confusion with the British movie “Quartet” of the same time, about a group of four performers of opera.

Made in 2012. Directed by Yaron Zilberman

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Posted by on July 5, 2013 in Movies

 

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The Talented Mr Ripley

In 1950’s America, Tom Ripley (played by Matt Damon) is a charming and personable young man, with a low-paying janitorial job. He’s also a natural con-artist and in any situation he always finds the most lucrative angle. Dickie Greenleaf (by Jude Law) is the son of a millionaire shipyard owner (by James Rebhorn) and he’s somewhere in Italy, living the high life with his girlfriend Marge (by Gwyneth Paltrow). One day, Tom is serving at a garden party and manages to convince Mr Greenleaf that he knows Dickie from his Princeton days. He gladly accepts a paid assignment in Italy to find the misbehaving Dickie and bring him home. When they meet, the handsome and confident Dickie isn’t fooled by Ripley for a second, but he plays along for a while rather than face being back at home and the reality of the family business. Tom soon settles in to the luxury Mediterranean playground and into Dickie and Marge’s friendship. As well as a good liar, Tom is also adept at imitation and forgery, so when Dickie tires of Tom, Tom goes to extreme lengths to adopt every privilege that Greenleaf’s life offers. He makes his way on the goodwill of affluent friends and acquaintances Meredith (by Cate Blanchett) and Freddie (by Philip Seymour Hoffman).

This film is engaging and vivid. The Italian Riviera sparkles like a gem and the main characters shine right out of the screen. It demonstrates the marvellous 1950’s lifestyle for rich Americans particularly well and you can feel the warm sun beating down on your back just as Jude Law, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow soak it up on the Italian beach. Matt Damon is very intuitive as the destitute Ripley who will do anything to adopt a more affluent lifestyle. Jude Law is perfectly cast as the superficial Dickie, who will “play” with Tom for as long as he’s interested then cast him aside like an old shoe. Cate Blanchett’s performance as the rich tourist, Meredith, is marvellous and she demonstrates exquisite timing. However, for all that, the film does go on for too long and I feel it could have ended sooner with a more effective arrival at the same conclusion, but the story is entertaining and the movie is a pleasure to watch.

This movie is a dramatisation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel,

Made in 1999. Directed by Anthony Minghella

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Movies

 

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Jack Goes Boating

Jack (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a timid, self-conscious and solitary 30-something guy living in New York City. He drives for a limousine company and exists from week to week. His workmate Clyde (by John Ortiz) always encourages Jack to “get out a bit more”, so he invites Jack to dinner at the home he shares with his partner Lucy (by Daphne Rubin-Vega). Over dinner, Jack meets Connie (by Amy Ryan) a work colleague of Lucy’s. They both work making sales calls to people to sell funeral arrangements. Although Jack and Connie are both nervous and uncomfortable, they strike up a very tentative friendship. Connie would like to go boating on a lake and Jack agrees that this would be a nice outing, once summer arrives. Jack decides to aim to take Connie boating in the summer – but it means he must learn to swim first. When they meet again, Jack suggests that Connie join him for dinner – and Connie is delighted, thinking Jack is offering to cook for her.  Once Jack realises, it’s too late to let her down so he must learn to cook too!. Jack would like to see more of Connie,so he is determined to achieve these things.  He also observes the challenges Clyde and Lucy have in their lives, which helps him see what’s really important for a successful and happy relationship. Although painfully shy and inexperienced, both Jack and Connie are strengthened by the care and concern they receive from each other and they manage to find each other through all the difficulties around them.

This is a good movie.  It’s one of those movies that is billed as a comedy, but to me it contains little to laugh at. I guess the comedy is somewhere in the tragedy and futility of these people’s lives, but in their naivety Jack and Connie are actually truly honest and refreshing when they relate to each other, which is marvellous. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great as the strange, eccentric but truly authentic and highly sensitive Jack. I was fully drawn to him as the movie progressed. He is wonderful and his tenderness towards Connie is superb. As the one-off Connie, Amy Ryan portrays her and her foibles very well. The reality of the relationship between Lucy and Clyde is realistically portrayed by Daphne Rubin-Vega and John Ortiz – you really feel it. Overall, the movie belongs to Seymour Hoffman – and as this is his directorial debut, he has done a fantastic job. I look forward to more..

Made in 2010.  Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Movies

 

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Doubt

In 1964 at St. Nicholas in the Bronx, Father Brendan Flynn (by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the parish priest who sees the need to change the strict practices of his school. These have been the realm of the School Principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (by Meryl Streep) who runs her school with an iron fist. Sister Aloysius believes that fear and discipline are the two key ingredients to successfully educating children. However, her fellow teacher, Sister James (by Amy Adams), is far more kind hearted and she exudes love for teaching and for the students in her charge. 

These are changing political times and the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller (by Joseph Foster). One day, Donald is called to see Father Flynn and when he returns to his class Sister James feels there is something unusual about his behaviour – and perhaps Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald. As a result, Sister Aloysius decides that Father Flynn has behaved inappropriately towards the boy – particularly as his explanation is unsatisfactory. Although there is no evidence of impropriety, Sister Aloysius mounts a crusade against him, which involves Donald’s mother and the broader community. Sister Aloysius is determined to pursue Father Flynn and ensure that justice is done. 

This movie is brave – it explores the difficult and controversial issues of religion, racial equality, child abuse, community culture, suspicion and presumption of innocence. I am not familiar with the detail of the political isses relating to the Catholic Church at this time, but the movie evidences a lot of change and upheaval between “old school” and “new wave” practicing Catholics. The performances of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are all very good indeed. Viola Davis is marvellous and very realistic as the anguished Mrs Miller.

This is a good movie – but it doesn’t go where I expected it to.  Well done.

Made: 2008. Directed by John Patrick Shanley

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Ides of March

“The Ides of March” is a political drama, with twists and turns where as each character is revealed, you see they are not quite as they were originally presented.  The story follows the campaign of two competitors in a US Presidential race for nomination – Governor Mike Morris (played by George Clooney) is the candidate. Clooney also wrote, produced and directed this very well made movie, but the film belongs to Ryan Gosling, who plays the campaign’s media manager, Stephen Myers.  Myers is smart, strategic and knows how to get votes.  He deals with media and other campaign participants in a slick and professional manner, to get his way.  The story involves the wheeling-dealing behind the scenes between the two candidates’ camps to secure the Presidential nomination from one state.

The key characters are all very well played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Morris’ Lead Campaign Manager, Paul), Paul Giamatti (the opposing candidate’s campaign Manager, Tom Duffy), young intern Molly (played by Evan Rachel Wood) and Marissa Tomei (playing a leading NY Times political reporter).  The drama delivers betrayal, deception, sex scandal, intrigue, suspense and high drama. 

Many have reviewed this movie with high praise for its story and drama. The movie is excellently made, well directed and cinematography is very effective, but something’s missing for me – I am not sure what it is, perhaps political drama just doesn’t do it for me. However, I would still say that it is worth seeing for the excellent performances of Clooney, Gosling, Seymour-Hoffman and Giamatti.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Movies

 

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Moneyball

Before I saw this movie I knew nothing about US major league baseball. This is a true story – Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, an ex-ball player who now manages the Oakland Athletics baseball team. It’s 2001 and Billy is trying to compete with the huge budgets of other much larger more high profile teams (like the Boston Red Sox), when his budget is only a third of theirs. They almost reach the Grand Final, but fail at the last hurdle.  In the new sports year, he recruits a crack young analyst, Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) and together they slowly build a competitive team, with resistance from even within his own club at every turn. The football manager (coach) is not a supporter and is very well portrayed (by Philip Seymour Hoffman). The result of Beane’s work with Hill is told in this drama.  I loved this movie – those with knowledge of the actual situation will get much more out if it, no doubt. It’s very good – even if you are not a sports or baseball nut, you will get something from the story I’m sure.  Brad Pitt is very good – there’s something distinctly “Redford-ish” about him in this. It got me in quickly and although it is long (133 mins) it kept me engaged, no time is wasted. Well done.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Movies

 

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