Catherine Keener has acted in dozens of comedies and dramas, from playing author Nelle Harper Lee in 2005′s Capote to a single mother in The 40-year-old Virgin, but she’s never played a violist, as she does in drama A Late Quartet, out in limited release on Friday.
Keener takes on the role of Juliette, who plays in an internationally known classical quartet with her violinist husband Robert, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, violinist Daniel, played by Mark Ivanir, and father figure cellist Peter, played by Christopher Walken. The foursome are hit hard when Walken’s Peter announces he has Parkinson’s, and must end his career. In the movie, Keener wavers between tight-lipped emotion and deep, fitful explosions of expression, arguing with Hoffman and seeking solace from Walken. It’s a part the actress critics have called “an indie queen” relishes. EW spoke to Keener by phone about the movie, working with Walken and Hoffman (her co-star in Capote), and loving that her own 13-year-old son plays the cello.