The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Quartet | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Quartet

Directed by: Dustin Hoffman
Starring: Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Sheridan Smith

Hoffman assembles a talented veteran British cast for his directorial debut.

Three members of a once renowned operatic vocal quartet (Connolly, Courtenay and Collins) now reside in a retirement home for musicians. When the fourth member (Smith) joins them, the others try to convince her to take part in the institution's annual music gala but she is very much opposed to the idea. There's also the small matter of Smith and Courtenay having once been married to one another, albeit for one mere day. 
Hoffman does an adequate job on his belated directorial debut but his screenwriter, Ronald Harwood, lets him down. In adapting his stage play, Harwood fails to give the material a satisfying screen revision. There are too many loose strands which lead to unsatisfying resolutions, most notably the culture snob played by Gambon. Harwood sets him up as a villain, someone who thinks opera should be elitist. Courtenay believes the opposite, insisting that opera should be available to people of all backgrounds. "Rich people took the soul out of opera" he tells a room of students. We're primed for a showdown between the two but it never materializes, Gambon disappearing from the film in the third act.
Despite the shoddy storytelling, the movie is engaging, thanks to it's four leads. Smith and Courtenay are outstanding as one-time lovers, too proud now to inform each other of their true feelings. It's in the film's dialogue free moments that Smith really shows what a great screen actress she is, conveying more with her eyes than any screenwriter could ever hope to. Connolly has always irked me in his acting roles as it usually just feels like you're watching Connolly rather than the character he's supposed to be playing. Here though he's fantastic, almost unrecognizable with a short back and sides.
'Quartet' is enjoyable enough though all too often it opts for cheap laughs of the "old people swearing" variety and the leads, despite being terrific, never really convince you of the need for them to belong in a retirement home.
Quartet (2012) on IMDb 6.6/10

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