Not to be confused with the recent cinematic soap opera that is A Late Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut centers upon a retirement home for musicians, where a colourful cast of characters reside, and a famous operatic quartet has the opportunity to reunite and impress.
Who’s in It?
Billy Connolly provides the comic relief, while his friend and foil is played by Tom Courtenay. The female half of the foursome includes Pauline Collins, both endearing and silly, and Maggie Smith, stern and feisty—you know, Maggie Smith. The rest of the cast, fortunately, is made up of actual renowned musicians and singers, who get a chance to show off.
Charming and likeable, though without much significant drama, Quartet is a well-acted, well-written, and modesty-directed diversion. Connolly acts the good-natured scoundrel, flirting with the women and mocking the men. His former singing partner, Reginald, is more proper, and passes time educating youth on the parallels of hip hop and opera in a scene that may be the most poignant and interesting in a very uneventful film.
His ex-wife Jean (Smith), and the most diva-like of the quartet, becomes a new resident at the estate, and that personal drama is compounded by the news that the home is running out of funds. Looks like we need to put on a show to raise some money, of course!
The definition of ‘fine’ and ‘nice,’ Quartet wonderfully features a cast of a certain age that isn’t enfeebled specifically by physical restrictions, but made insecure by those things that are universal and ageless. The inclusion of some very talented musicians is welcome, too. Mr. Hoffman lets all the actors do their own thing without himself really doing much (not knowing the director, it’d be easy to figure it’s a former actor). The ending looks to be divisive, but the journey is pleasant and unique enough to be affecting, though not particularly memorable.
Should You See It?
Yes, but it might better at home, with a glass of wine, and followed by a hot bath, with Verdi playing in the background.
Can’t type it out here, but the prim and proper Maggie Smith delivers a pithy and decided epithet that is very unladylike.