Review: Quartet

Quartet-poster

There seems to be a grey revolution in British films of late. Following the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film in which a group of pensioners retire to India to live out their golden years, Quartet is set in a home for retired musicians.

Reggy, Wilf and Cissy (Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins, respectively) are three old friends who used to perform in a vocal quartet many years ago and have all ended up in the home together. Reggy gives lectures about opera to school kids, Wilf is constantly flirting with the nurses and Cissy is slowly succumbing to dementia.

The home puts on a gala every year to support the upkeep of the building and this year looks like it’s going to be their last as audience numbers are dwindling. Something the self-appointed organiser Cedric (Michael Gambon) is very upset about. But then, in walks the latest resident: Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) who also happens to be the final member of the Quartet. This means the gala can be saved…as long as Jean can be persuaded. (Not a dissimilar set up from The Blues Brothers or The Muppet Movie really.) But her arrival stirs up old emotions with one of the other performers.

Very much like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this is a film that takes a serious look at the realities of being old in today’s society. It also shows that being old doesn’t mean that you’re over the hill or that you can’t have a laugh…old people are people too! A lot of the situations the characters find themselves in are ones that you would expect younger people to find themselves in; damage from pervious relationships, crippling low self-confidence, etc. This is the area that seems to be in vogue at the moment.

Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut sees him deftly tackle this throughly British feeling movie as well as the complex emotional issues faced by the characters. He does a fantastic job too, though being adapted from a play there were probably fairly good guidelines to follow. With outstanding central performances (the standout for me being Billy Connolly, who is as hilarious as ever) backed up by a genuinely talented supporting cast (made up of past performers from the stage and orchestras), this is a feel good movie which is less melancholy than its Indian set counterpart, but still tackles the problems faced by those growing old head on with warmth as well as humour.

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