Quartet

Wednesday, 19 December, 2012

3 stars

Getting the band back together for one last gig, even though all four members happen live in the same English nursing home, a dedicated facility for retired classical musicians at that, proves to be a little more troublesome than anticipated, in Quartet (trailer), the directorial debut of veteran US actor Dustin Hoffman.

With the arrival at Beecham House of retired opera singer Jean (Maggie Smith), former members of a quartet she once performed with, Cissy (Pauline Collins), Wilf (Billy Connolly), and Reg (Tom Courtenay), see an opportunity to save their beautifully appointed home from falling into the hands of its creditors.

Each year, Beecham House’s residents put on a performance of the music of Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi for the local community, but with former star Jean potentially among their ranks, organiser Cedric (Michael Gambon) is certain a larger than usual audience would be prepared to splash out to see the four reunited.

Quartet still

The four however do not quite share Cedric’s enthusiasm. Wilf seems more intent on making advances on Lucy (Sheridan Smith), the young resident doctor, while Cissy struggles with memory lapses. The biggest challenge though lies with getting Jean and Reg, who were once briefly married, to even talk to each other.

Based on the 1999 play of the same name by Ronald Harwood, and blending humour with an exaggerated, campy, tension, “Quartet” makes for lighthearted entertainment, though it is unlikely to win accolades for being a realistic depiction of life in an aged care facility, even if it is one for performers who have been put out to pasture.

Nor is “Quartet” in any great danger of earning praise for strong characterisation, just about all key roles are caricatures to one degree or another, and it’s on this count that I suspect many viewers will walk away disappointed. Still, thanks to the acting talent on hand, it is possible to see passed most blemishes, and be charmed by this tale of life after retirement.

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