Starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins
Arguably, the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, Quartet (not to be confused with A Late Quartet) is yet another film in the variety pool of cinema that is about and geared towards the over-60 crowd. Ever since finishing her wonderful and unforgettable role in the Harry Potter series, Oscar winner Maggie Smith is on a roll with great performances. Also in contention this year is her supporting performance in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where she similarly plays a hateful old bag. The entire cast here is superb, with credit due to their amazing talent and the script, which comes from the writer of the source material, a play. Quartet isn’t the type of film that will make money, and it will likely be completely overlooked by the Academy Awards; however it’s a pretty original film all on its own.
The Beecham House for retired musicians isn’t a place where old people go to die; it’s where the elderly move to sing! An expensive and privately owned estate is about to get a feisty new resident, Jean (Smith), one of the extraordinary opera singers of her time. She is quite the diva, and upon arrival is about to shake things up at the Beecham House by demanding that her food be delivered to her room and refusing to participate in the house’s annual fundraising gala. Cedric (Gambon) is the dramatic and outrageous director of the show who dresses in lavish robes and shouts orders at everyone. Perverted ole Wilf (Connelly), forgetful Cissy (Collins) and quiet Reggie (Courtenay) must play their cards right and convince Jean to join their quartet finale.
Besides some pacing issues, the film is quite enjoyable.
“This is not a retirement home, this is a mad house!” Jean shouts upon her first week in the eccentric house. Smith has always been known for her dramatics and she really gets some juicy scenes here, including grabbing flowers from her friend’s hands and hitting her with them. You can’t help but accept the idea that many of the scenes are certainly making fun of ailments and uncontrollable elderly behavior; but on the other side of the coin, Quartet explores a life after 60 that cinema rarely touches. The humor of the film is the selling point and the most outrageous moments are certainly the most memorable highlights.
Hoffman doesn’t really invite creative risks in his film making here but he certainly isn’t just fresh off the train either. There are dialogue heavy moments or even moments that attempt to set tone that are unnecessary, when what we really want is to get back to the quarrels and arguments. While I thought Gambon was hysterical, I couldn’t figure out why he was still dressed like Dumbledore. Besides some pacing issues, the film is quite enjoyable I think for any age group that wants to give it a chance, but they should understand that, like the characters, things move a little slow.
The performances are really quite entertaining to watch.