I told my 19 year old son that “Quartet” was a film about musicians and sex. So he was happy to accompany me to the movies yesterday. I did omit that the musicians in question were in their 70s, 80s and 90s and the ‘action’ took place in a retirement home of sorts.
So I’ll probably go to hell.
But what will most likely save my posterior from the pitchfork is the fact that Quartet is a rich, moving and uplifting film. And it doesn’t matter whether you are 19, 39 or 79. You should see this film.
This is Dustin Hoffman‘s first film as a director. Hopefully not his last. Its based on a Ronald Hardwood play from 1999 and is about four aging opera singers who come together to perform at a charity benefit to save their retirement home.
Like the Blues Brothers in reverse.
Based in the stately Beechham House – a retirement home for musicians, Quartet opens on shambolic rehearsals being run by Cedric (Michael Gambon) for the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. The concert is a key local event that helps shore up donations to keep the house running.
Despite lots of gossip, minor spats, and outbursts of eccentricity and there is a rhythm, an equilibrium of sorts, at Beecham house. Cedric harangues all and sundry. Wilf (Billy Connolly) is the lunchroom lothario showering any female in seducing distance with suggestive and charming come-ons. Cissy (Pauline Collins) is the delightful, forgetful old lady making friends, helping people, smoothing ripples. Reginald (Tom Courtenay) is the solemn and studious foil to Wilf’s recklessness.
However the discordant arrival of Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) upsets many of the residents – Reginald in particular. Jean is a selfish and self-absorbed opera star. She has history with Reginald and some of the other guests. At Beecham house the memories are long indeed.
Better than their short-term memories anyway.
Cedic realises that with Jean now at Beecham they have the opportunity to form a unique quartet and sing the third act quartet from Rigoletto. This would be the killer draw that would assure enough funds to keep Beecham solvent.
Wilf, Cissy and Reggie are on board. The Force is strong with these three. Jean – as befits a selfish diva – refuses and the three set out to change her mind.
I loved Quartet. There is an unpacking of a lot of the emotion, fear and desperation associated with aging that is deftly handled when called for – with brilliant touches of levity – especially from Billy Connolly and Michael Gambon. I did feel that the film dragged somewhat in the middle exploring the history between Reggie and Jean in more depth than was strictly necessary. However this is a minor gripe.
9 out of 10