Quartet: This movie is a character comedy full of stars and charm

Film review by Elliot Baker –

Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial début in this adaptation of a West End play, starring Dame Maggie Smith as a former opera star. Quartet is a comedy full of charm and humour.

Beecham House is no ordinary retirement home; its only residents are former musical stars, which sort of turns it into Fame with hearing aids. We meet three of our four leads, Reg (Tom Courtenay), Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Cissy (Pauline Collins) as they undertake preparations for the yearly concert to celebrate the birthday of composer Verdi. The home is in financial trouble and needs the concert to sell out in order to stay afloat.  Then along comes former operatic superstar Jean Horton (Smith) – will she save the day?

Despite the slightly flimsy plot the strength of the film is in its performances. The stars are allowed to let their personalities shine through. Reg is an old grump, Wilf the mischievous charmer etc, and the naturalistic scripting sees them laying into each other brilliantly. Michael Gambon plays a hilarious Lord Bath-esque musical director, making me laugh out loud at least twice.

The film also has a big heart, and certainly pulls you in at times, considering the more worrying aspects of old age. However, thankfully Hoffman opts to touch on these issues, without really exploring them as far as he might have; this isn’t that sort of film. Maggie Smith’s emotional arc from denial to acceptance of old age provides some of the more meaningful moments. However the film doesn’t dwell on these with light hearted relief never far away, to quote Cissy quoting Bette Davis “old age is not for sissies”.

This is an old-fashioned character comedy and doesn’t take itself too seriously, clearly aiming at the older market. It also attempts to address the generation divide, all the while moving the story forward. Throughout the film you grow close to each of the characters, their lives and personalities, a surprisingly difficult thing to achieve in a light hearted comedy of this type, and something many seasoned directors fail at.

Quartet is a fun film not just for the older generations and, with some genuinely hilarious moments as well as touching ones, it’s a rare treat.



Thanks to the Capitol

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