Copying Beethoven

Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Nov. 10. Rated PG-13. 104 minutes.

Ed Harris as Beethoven? The man who would be John Glenn is hardly the most instinctive choice to play the legendary composer, especially if you recall Gary Oldman's performance in Immortal Beloved. Copying refrains from making the great composer its actual protagonist, viewing him instead through the eyes of someone close to him. It's a similar technique as the one deployed in The Last King of Scotland—create a fictional composite character to act as the "straight man" with a conventional character arc, while the marquee actor hams it up in the Big Role, unconstrained by a conventional character arc. Our fictional guide through Ludwig's world is Anna (Diane Kruger), a student at the Vienna music conservatory who lands a job as Beethoven's copyist. Harris is the larger-than-life hero, and he's better than you might expect. Think Jackson Pollock, but with a metal ear trumpet, fright wig, and piano. Anna helps Beethoven compose and perform the Ninth Symphony, and had the movie climaxed there, it might have been great. Instead it keeps going, and ends up a film awkwardly composed. LUKE Y. THOMPSON

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