Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Movies by Mercurious™: Week of Dec. 3, 2012

In the throes of the weighty end-of-the-year stretch when all the major studios are frantically trying to force-feed you their entries into the race for best picture Oscar, you are well advised to settle your digestion by looking for a little snack in the form of small independent movies.

"A Late Quartet" is wonderful form of this snack. It's the story of a world-class string quartet who has been together for 20-some years. Although they are at the peak of their fame and skills, they have grown a little stale in their precision, and a little weary of their collaboration. And they are also, frankly, just a little tired of one another as human beings. They are at that stage in life where, while continued growth is achievable, an individual has also spotted the ceiling and been forced to recognize that not everything is still possible. The older you get, the more crucial are the decisions you make, and the smaller the window for recovery if the decisions are bad.  (This, of course, is what makes this a great Geezer film. One of the benefits of getting older is that with a real understanding of life's arc,  individual moments take on a greater poignancy and liveliness because you recognize their terribly finite nature.)

The sudden diagnosis of early Parkinson's disease for the elder statesman of the group, the cellist played by Christopher Walken, throws the world into chaos. While the cellist has a year or so to continue performing, the group finding itself suddenly confronted with life's inherent uncertainty after years of successful complacency is the stuff of the classic tragi-comic formula.

This is not a "comedy" movie, mind you; but the film's serious presentation of the problems that arise when the status quo is suddenly overturned has its roots in the classic Greek Tragedy-Comedy cycle. Underlying the utterly realistic depiction of intelligent, talented people trying to cope, there are universal themes at work here, involving order and chaos, life and death,  love and hate, ambition and acceptance. It's a movie that makes you think about these serious subjects without preaching philosophy or beating you over the head with obvious symbolism. It reminded me, in some ways, of the very best Woody Allen endeavors, though, as I say, the comedy is the classic sort that makes you smile with understanding and sympathy, not laugh at absurdity and prat-falls.

The movie features Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Kathleen Keener, and you will see no more finely acted movie this year. Compare Christopher Walken in "Seven Psychopaths" to his performance here, and you conclude there is no more interesting actor on the planet. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is invariably good, of course, but compared to his rather bombastic role in "The Master," this is a gem of subtlety and skill.

Geezer quotient: 96/100