What is it with the recent influx of romantic dramas starring nubile young things seducing older men? Sure, they’re not original, but there are an awful lot of them out at the same time. Elizabeth Olsen traded sexually-charged letters about music with Josh Radnor in Liberal Arts. Olivia Thirlby seduced John Krasinski in a music studio in Nobody Walks. And now Imogen Poots‘ part in the new indie A Late Quartet is to fall for one of the members in her parents’ quartet.
We included Imogen on our 25 Crushable Girls Under 25 list because we’re consistently impressed with how she holds her own opposite more seasoned actors in all of the films on her growing IMDb resume. To say that she’s not the best actor in the film is not a dig, because the quartet is made up of incredibly skilled actors: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener playing her parents, Christopher Walken as her grandfather/teacher, and Mark Ivanir as the fourth member and first violin/de facto leader of the group. The fact that Imogen plays the only other main character who’s not immediately part of that group is very impressive.
Since other reviews have revealed this plot point, I don’t see it as a huge spoiler to talk about how brash, bright, young violinist Alexandra falls for the withdrawn, rigid first violin Daniel. It actually seems fairly obvious, since they spend a lot of time together: As the only member of the quartet not related to her by blood, he offers to coach her with lessons at his apartment and field trips to pick up horse hair for new strings. At first, it seems as if she seduces him, but when confessing to the affair he admits that he’s in love with her. It’s clear that he’s in love with her youth and undiluted talent; what makes it messier and more suspect is that he was involved with her mother in college right before they started the quartet and she fell in love with Hoffman’s character.
Part of what sets this on-screen romance apart from the others I mentioned abocve is that Ivanir is not a known actor, at least not to an audience like Crushable’s readers. Unlike with Radnor and Krasinski, we didn’t go into the movie analyzing how he responds to falling for his friends’ daughter. The whole affair is handled with this same understated sense. For some reason, the scene where they have sex for the first time really sticks with me: Alexandra’s mother Juliette is buzzing at the door of her apartment while they’re in the middle of the act, and while Daniel panics and scrambles for his clothes, Alex just lays there giggling. The irony is not lost on her, and she’s just delighting in how their impulsive hook-up has thrown a monkey wrench into the quartet’s dynamic. (Though as you’ll see from the trailer below, them sleeping together is the least of this foursome’s problems.)
But it’s not all laughs. Obviously Alexandra has inherited her parents’ musical talent, but she wrestles with her position as the quartet’s heir. You can see how she both revels in and wrestles with her closeness to the group. In one of her many scenes with Daniel, she aptly describes how her mother relates to each of the men in the quartet. But one of the film’s most powerful scenes is the only one we see of Alexandra and Juliette, where she confronts her mother about leaving her at home for seven months out of the year. Alexandra knows that she’s a prodigy, but when Juliette cries, “You’ll know what it’s like soon,” Alex recoils as if physically disgusted at the notion.
Sure, there are parts of the movie where it feels like Alex’s love affair with Daniel — and its conclusion — are too convenient. But just like Alexandra, Imogen Poots doesn’t let herself get intimidated by her superiors. The way in which she holds herself, especially opposite Catherine Keener, is a delight to watch.
A Late Quartet is in theaters now.
Photo: Opening Night Productions