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titlequartet

In the rarefied air of a British retirement home for musicians, an elderly group of yesterday’s stars are assembling a benefit gala to save their mansion. Michael Gambon’s mumu-loving luvvy harangue’s the pack and if he can get reclusive diva Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) to sing, they’ve got a sure-fire hit on their hands. She was one of a celebrated foursome and the remainder - Billy Connolly, Tom Courtney and Pauline Collins - are assigned the task of convincing her to reunite and perform Verdi’s Rigoletto.

So begins Dustin Hoffman’s unlikely choice material for his debut as director, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s popular stage play. The essential Englishness of the material seems lost on this most American of actors better know for Willy Lomas than Janet Baker. What should be bitter-sweet comedy-drama in the vein of The Best Marigold Hotel contains some drama, some of which is heartfelt (notably Collin’s failing battle with dementia) while comedy is left to Connolly but only if you find randy geriatrics funny. From here returns quickly diminish with Gambon as the token eccentric left to flounder in bad humour and others, notably Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers’ Manuel) appearing shoe-horned in to position.

With a desperately sign-posted narrative free of real surprise (they make up, they fall out, they make up again, they perform), Quartet’s only hope is watching an all star cast do their thing. Sadly, Hoffman finds no room to let anyone, fat lady or otherwise, sing which makes for a rather leaden adventure that never fully escapes its stage roots. While opera buffs may revel in the sight of long forgotten artists filling up the corners of the retirement home, there’s little else of value here. Given the star wattage involved, Quartet is an amiable but ultimately disappointing night at the opera.

// COLIN FRASER
moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks



Quartet (2012) on IMDb
STUFF

CAST
Maggie Smith
Pauline Collins
Billy Connolly
Tom Courtney


DIRECTOR
Dustin Hoffman

SCREENWRITER
Ronald Harwood

COUNTRY
UK

RATING / RUNTIME
M / 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
December 26, 2012
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Stacks Image 63