There are so many ways this could be good…
…except for one thing that Hollywood, through all the years, has failed to recognize: MUSICIANS HATE SEEING NON-MUSICIANS PRETENDING TO PLAY THEIR INSTRUMENTS.
This is not meant to be a criticism of the work and training that actors have to go through to play a part that involves a skill they don’t have. (By the way, I wonder how long they took lessons for this movie… six months, maybe? The characters they’re portraying have probably been training for decades, and clearly, THE GAP SHOWS, but that’s neither here nor there.) The point is about good storytelling, which involves being able to be lost in the narrative and swept away from reality. We should be left with the images on the screen, but when there’s a flaw in the formula, we’re usually snapped abruptly back to the realization that these are just moving pictures. My memories of bad movies usually involve visions of the theater I saw them in – this is because the movie failed to keep my eyes locked and my attentions riveted.
I don’t know what the solution would be, exactly, but I can’t tell you how many interviews I’ve heard with actors as they rant and rave about how what they do is a FINELY HONED CRAFT, and while everyone thinks they can do it, it actually takes years and years of training to really pull it off. (Hypocrisy? Might be too strong a word, but COME ON, I’ve got 12-year-old students who don’t play that stiffly!)
I would love to know if there were dancers that had a similar experience with this scene:
I have the privilege of working with ballet dancers on a regular basis, and the art they produce is mind blowing. Natalie Portman (who I ADORE, by the way) looks like she’s just kind of waving her arms and walking. It was not a performance that asked for the thunderous applause the audience gave her.
Okay, skill sets aside, there’s another fundamental problem here. That’s the whole storyline inserted for Phillip Seymour Hoffmann’s character about wanting to not play exclusively second violin parts anymore.
Future writers, listen up, because I’m tired of this metaphor: PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE SHOULDN’T BE AN ALLEGORY FOR LIFE.
The arrangement of a string quartet requires the second violin sit on the inside of the first violin, meaning there is a whole body sitting there between the musician and the audience to soak up the sound. Know what that means? The second violin has to play EVEN LOUDER than the first violin to be heard. In fact, when I’m playing first violin in a quartet, I often ask the second violin to play pretty bombastically into my ear so I have a good foundation. If they’re not settled and perfect, it ends up making the rest of the group sound like poo. That’s pressure, and not for the faint-hearted. And the second violin part in the quartet they’re performing in the movie is a FANTASTIC part. So really, this preview comes off as Phillip Seymour Hoffman whining about something stupid. Again, not good storytelling.
This trailer isn’t all bad, though – it does seem to capture the tension and emotions that happen between string quartet members if they stay together long enough. I appreciate the take on this, as there are some who picture the life of a classical musician to be relaxed and puppy-dog like. Being in a chamber group of any kind is really like being in a marriage. You share your passions and your emotions on a daily basis, but you don’t get things like dates and snuggles on the couch and vacations and other… um… fun activities that married couples get to share.
I’m hoping this turns out better than I’m giving it credit for. It’s nice to have a movie made about my world, for sure, but I’m not sure I’m the intended audience. And perhaps I’m being too hard on the actors as a whole… they are holding the instruments in the correct hands, after all.