Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I had a pass for a preview downtown, but it was pretty clear even before heading to work that I was not getting there by the time the movie starts, let alone in time to wait in a line full of other passholders. Heck, I was kind of shocked that I managed to make it to the 7:05 screening of Quartet.

Then, it came time to sleep fast, because company meeting was the next day and I had to be at work an hour earlier than usual for a day that wouldn't end until nine pm.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 28 January 2013 in Landmark Kendall Square #2 (first-run, 2K digital)

Quartet is directed by Dustin Hoffman, who has spent roughly the last forty-five years in front of the camera with just one abortive attempt to go behind it. So it should be no surprise at all that he sticks to what he knows and makes a movie that is just full of acting. The good news is, it's also full of fine actors who are well worth the price of admission.

The Beecham Home for Retired Musicians is pretty nice, as those places go: A beautiful old house, well-maintained grounds, and a chance to live out one's latter years surrounded by friends with whom one shares a common interest. Among the residents are Wilfred Bond (Billy Connolly), whose roguish nature is only exaggerated by the stroke he suffered some years back (or so he says); Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), Wilf''s best friend who fills his time teaching opera to local teenagers; Cicely "Sissy" Robson (Pauline Collins), a bubbly sort whose dementia is getting worse; and Cedric Livingston (Michael Gambon), who is busily planning the annual fundraising gala held on Verdi's birthday. They're soon joined by Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), famous in part for a Verdi quartet she performed with Reg, Wilf, and Cissy - and for having briefly been married to Reg - who naturally has trouble adjusting to her new circumstances.

There is, of course, talk of how Beecham may have to close without the funds raised by the gala, and wouldn't a reunion of these four great operatic voices on stage be a fantastic draw, but to the credit of Hoffman and Ronald Harwood (adapting his own play), that's not a source of suspense so much as it's a reason to keep the characters from staying where they start the movie - a little push in the right direction, not a large one. It's there, it gives the movie a logical place to end and reason to do certain things simultaneously rather than in sequence, but the problem to be solved never comes close to overshadowing the actors and their performances.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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