CAPSULE: At a home for retired musicians many of the residents are some of the former greats of the operatic stage. To save the home they are putting on an opera gala and would like something smashing to perform. The home has three of the singers from an opera history classic performance of the quartet from RIGOLETTO. When the fourth singer moves to the home it seems like the repeat performance is a real possibility, but newly arrived Jean (Maggie Smith) is not at all happy with the home and its residents. Ronald Harwood adapts his play to the screen. At age 75 Dustin Hoffman directs a film for the first time, a film with comedy and grace. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
There is a rarely recognized genre of film I would call "octogenarian films." Most films seem to concentrate on people considerably younger, say from age seventeen to thirty. Fewer films seem to have main characters in the forty to sixty range. But then there is a genre of films for and about people roughly in their eighties. You have films like THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS, and MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT. They seem to play in art houses largely to audiences of retirees. This is a viewership that has time and money but very little interest in Wolverine or Iron Man. So some films are being made for them.
Beecham House for Retired Musicians is having financial problems. Generally the way they handle such problems is staging a gala performance once a year. They do have some of the great names in 20th century musical talent. A real coup would be if they could restage one of the great legendary performances of opera, four great stars singing the quartet from Verdi's RIGOLETTO. They actually have three of those great singers living at the home. They have Reginald Paget (played by Tom Courtenay), Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly), and Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins). But it will not be a great performance if they cannot their fourth star Jean Horton (Maggie Smith). The repeat performance is just a pipedream until Jean Horton actually also comes to live at the home. But all their problems are not over. Jean is having a very hard time adjusting to the new surroundings. In addition, Reginald will not work with Jean under any circumstances. There is history between Reginald and Jean. Reginald has had a grudge against Jean for many decades now and he refuses to have anything to do with her.
The star of the film is, of course, Maggie Smith. Smith is almost a female equivalent of Morgan Freeman. We see a lot of her playing with a sly wit, but it is nearly always the same character with no more than minor variations. Jean is little different from Muriel Donnelly from THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL or Violet Crawley from TV's "Downton Abbey". Here, however, Smith has some first-class competition from a very funny Billy Connolly who plays at being a perpetually randy, occasionally vulgar, dirty old man. He flirts with every woman within range and a few that are not. Connolly is as funny as John Cleese to whom he bears no small physical resemblance. (At least one person from our party came away thinking she had seen John Cleese.) The plot is simple, and the acting is quiet. Dustin Hoffman, directing a film for the first time, gives us a film as comfortable as an old stuffed chair. And in one touch unusual for a film about old people, nobody even comes close to dying. Another touch is that a very large number of the home residents really are well-known music makers. If you know classical music be sure to stick around for the credits as well as enjoying the music throughout. I rate QUARTET a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441951/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/quartet_2012/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper