Thirty years after being unceremoniously banished from conducting Moscow’s famous Bolshoi Orchestra for not following Soviet policy on hiring Jews, washed-up maestro Aleksei Guskov happens upon a chance at redemption and sets about getting his old musicians together to play a concert at Paris’ prestigious Châtelet. The Concert is director Radu Mihaileanu’s crack at a well-worn formula: it’s the underdog story where a rag tag bunch of misfits fights adversity to go from laughing stock to world beaters.
It’s the combination of a tragic backstory – rooted in the harshness of Breznev’s Soviet Union – and a very funny script that endows the film with enough emotional clout and humour to elevate it above its familiar premise and somewhat predictable plot.
The performances help, too. Guskov is masterful at the centre of things, as a man living in the shadow of his past and driven by his passion to recapture it. Opposite him, Inglourious Basterds star Melanie Laurent shines as a French violinist whose link with Guskov is kept ambiguous until a moving revelation at the film’s climax.
The central relationship between these two drives the film emotionally, leaving the supporting cast to bring the abundant laughs. Flitting between subtly observational and outright slapstick comedic moments, The Concert manages to be consistently hilarious.
Though it never strays far from its formula – it even throws in a montage of sorts – The Concert is a satisfying watch, the sort of big, feelgood romp that seldom comes out of Hollywood these days.