“How incessant and great are the ills with which a prolonged old age is replete…” - C. S. Lewis
We watched the Dustin Hoffman 2012 film “Quartet” starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay. The screenplay is based on Ronald Harwood’s play, and this stage origin sometimes shows. The film was very reminiscent of “The Very Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which I have previously reviewed here. Maggie Smith’s character in particular was very similar.
The plot in a nutshell concerns former opera singers, Cecily (Collins), Reggie (Courtenay), and Wilfred (Connolly) who are in a home for retired musicians. Every year, on October 10, there is a concert to celebrate Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday and they take part. Another operatic soprano, Jean (Smith), who used to be married to Reggie, suddenly arrives at the home and disrupts their equilibrium. She still acts like a diva, but refuses to sing as she believes she has lost the agility of her voice. The three residents have to build bridges over broken relationships first and then to convince Joan to sing and take part in the gala concert.
This film is Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut at age 75. This is a movie for veteran actors, and there are many good, solid performances in this ensemble piece about the ageing residents of the retirement home. Hoffman doesn’t stray into overwrought drama or mawkishness and his direction is restrained. The humour ranges from the subtle to the occasional slapstick but there is also an emotional undercurrent. Although the stars play satisfying characters well (as they should at their age), the supporting actors are also well chosen. The sets and costumes are delightful, and the music is of course wonderful.
Although we enjoyed this movie, it is nowhere near the calibre of “The Very Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, which deals with a similar topic. It is not as deep nor as satisfying as the “Marigold Hotel”. Nevertheless, it is a light-weight, enjoyable movie, perfect for a quiet night in or a lazy Sunday afternoon.