Movie review: Quartet

It's a wonder that dogs of mature years don't suffer a complex from being told so often of their alleged inability to learn new tricks. It hasn't stopped old dog Dustin Hoffman though. After an on-going career of starring in over seventy features, seasoned luvvy Hoffman, at the ripe age of 75, has decided to make his directorial debut.

As projects go, he couldn't have found a more gentle and appropriate story to begin his directing career with.

Welcome to the melodic halls of Beecham House, a retirement home for elderly musicians. The current residents are busying themselves by rehearsing for their annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday. It's a pretty big deal for all concerned; not only is it an opportunity to raise enough money to keep the home ticking over for another year, but it also gives a number of the residents the chance to shine in the now-dimming limelight of their careers.

Trying to keep everyone focused at the job at hand is Cedric (Michael Gambon), particularly when you have to control the likes of the sex-obsessed Wilf (Billy Connolly), the flighty Cissy (Pauline Collins) and Reg (Tom Courtenay) who would just be happy with some marmalade for breakfast.

Just when Cedric thinks he has everyone on track, his plans are thrown into disarray with the arrival of a new resident: Jean (Maggie Horton). Her arrival ruffles more than a few feathers, none more so than Reg's; when he learns that she's moving in, it not only drags up parts of his past he'd rather forget but it looks increasingly likely that the show might not go on as originally planned.

As you've probably already deduced, considering the aged talent involved, that this is yet another entry in the growing grey (AKA blue rinse) cinema genre. It appears there's a definite trend for seeing older actors growing old disgracefully on the big screen, and this one doesn't disappoint on that front.

Connolly does well in behaving older than he appears and Gambon is simply adorable as the bossy luvvy. And although it's always nice to see Dame Maggie do her thing, her 'thing' is somewhat predictable; Jean is no more than a 21st century version of her Downton Abbey persona Violet Crawley.

The real surprises of the film are Collins and Courtenay; it's their characters that supply the true heart of the film, with achingly touching performances offering above average reflections of raw emotions of the elderly persuasion.

Hoffman does little wrong breaking his directorial cherry, but then it is the type of drama that is technically undemanding. No doubt he was certainly aided by having such a wise and professional cast to rely upon.

It is all rather predictable though; the only real surprise is that a main cast member isn't seen pushing up the daisies by the film's end.

Quartet is almost painfully cosy in its portrayal of talented oldies, making it perfectly acceptable viewing for a cold Sunday evening in, in front of the fire with your slippers on. But unlike many of the elderly and their various ailments, it's just a bit too predictable.

3 booms

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