A couple of years ago, if you’d put a bet on Dustin Hoffman’s first movie as a director being about a bunch of musicians in a British old folks home, you would have been very rich when Quartet opened. It’s a surprising choice for the veteran actor, especially as it’s such a quintessentially British movie, but he has a steady hand behind the camera, and also ensured he had some pretty powerful acting talent in front of the camera.
Reginald (Tom Courtenay), Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Cissie (Pauline Collins) live in the Beacham House retirement home for musicians. They’re pottering along, preparing for an annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. Things are shaken up with the arrival of Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), a former opera star who still possesses more than a few diva-ish qualities. Reginald is less than happy to see her, as they were once married but it ended very badly.
Wilf, Cissie, Reg and Jean’s decades-old performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto is considered to be the definitive post-war rendition, and with the concert coming up a plan is hatched to get them to perform the quartet ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’ from the opera. However Reginald wants nothing to do with Jean and is furious she’s even been allowed to move into the home. She meanwhile doesn’t want to do any singing, as she used to ‘be somebody’ and worries what people will think of her now.
Quartet is a charming film and while not a huge amount really happens, it works thanks to the strong characters played by some of Britain’s greatest actors. It also doesn’t hurt that Hoffman filled out the residents of the old folks home with real aging musicians, adding an air of authenticity to proceedings.
The film should also be commended for [Minor Spoiler Alert] being a film about elderly people, which doesn’t end up copping out by having one of its main characters keel over to add easy pathos [spoilers end]. Indeed it does a great job of illuminating the challenges of getting old without resorting to presenting the elderly as pathetic people in need of pity.
The Blu-ray offers a nice, crisp picture, showing off the sunny visuals and very English setting of the movie. The audio is also nice and clear, which is handy for a film about music.
The features include several making of featurettes, which prove fairly enlightening, including letting us know what attracted Hoffman to the movie in the first place. There’s also a very entertaining set of outtakes, some decent deleted scenes and a set of extended interviews.
Overall Verdict: Quartet may not be filled with thrills and action, but shows that with good characters, buckets of charm and great actors, you can still make an extremely entertaining film.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac