Quartet (12A)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner02/01/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Warm-hearted, watchable comedy-drama enlivened by an engaging script and a quartet of enjoyable performances from Smith, Connolly, Collins and Courtenay.

What's it all about?
Directed by Dustin Hoffman (making his directorial debut), Quartet is set at Beecham House, a retirement home for opera singers and musicians. When acclaimed soprano Jean (Maggie Smith) arrives at the home, musical director Cedric (Michael Gambon) attempts to reunite the quartet from a famous performance of Verdi's Rigoletto for the home's annual gala performance. Since the three other members (Billy Connolly as wise-cracking Wilf, Pauline Collins as scatter-brained Cissy and Tom Courtenay as depressed Reggie) are all residents of the home, this seems like an easy enough task, but Reggie is still smarting from his failed marriage to Jean, while Jean herself isn't sure she ever wants to sing in public again.

The Good
This is a film that gives you more or less everything you expect and the performances are no exception: Smith delivers her best Maggie Smith (imperious, cutting, but warm hearted beneath the snooty exterior), Connolly is gently amusing as Wilf and Collins is charmingly ditzy as Cissy, while there's equally strong support from both Michael Gambon (clad in dressing gown and fez more or less throughout) and Tom Courtenay, as well as a likeable turn from Sheridan Smith as the film's only young person, the home's resident doctor.

Aside from coaxing engaging performances from his actors, Hoffman pulls off a number of quietly affecting moments without resorting to sugary sentimentality. He also makes the wise decision to cast genuine retired musicians as the other residents, which gives the home a real atmosphere, as people are making their own background music in almost every scene (a roll-call at the end of the film reveals an impressive number of credits, which should make a fun game of spot-the-retired-opera-star for opera buffs).

The Bad
The only real issue with the film is that, while it avoids sentimentality, it's also perhaps a little too feelgood for its own good. For example, in a film about the members of a retirement home, it's natural to expect a scene where one of the residents passes away; Quartet acknowledges that reality with a scene where someone (a background performer) is taken to hospital, only to immediately undercut it with Doctor Sheridan Smith announcing that the person in question is perfectly fine and will be back later.

Worth seeing?
Quartet is an entirely watchable feelgood comedy drama that's as light and fluffy as a soufflé, though you also feel it would collapse under the weight of anything too serious. Still, it's a lot more fun than The Exotic Marigold Hotel and it will play extremely well to its target audience.

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Content updated: 21/05/2019 14:24

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