The story concerns the difficulties a once popular foursome have in getting together to do one more show ("to save the orphanage ... for the penguin ... we're on a mission from God" The Blues Brothers then, though w/o the major players doing even one song!).
The players perform their required duties but are ill served finally by the platform given them.
Only Pauline Collins gets any real work done here. No, honestly.
If it wasnt for Billy Connolly bringing the comedy then i probably would have liked this movie even less.
The Plot: So while it's not about saving a community center per se, the plot of "Quartet" centers around a retirement home (mansion really) filled with a slew of curmudgeon opera singers, that is about to be shut down. Now all the old timers must leave their differences in the past to come together for one last performance in order to raise enough money to save the old folks home. If that sounds routine and predictable, that is only because it is. But that's not the biggest problem with this film.
The ensemble cast here is pretty notable, with the likes of Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins. But that doesn't mean that they are any good here. Yes, most of the acting is all standard, with each actor taking on a very generic role (the dirty old man, the straight man, the uptight blue-hair and the ditsy comic relief) but as far as performances go, the only standout of the lot comes from Smith, who pretty much takes a defibrillator to "Quartet" with her overly distinguished, overly disgusted comic sense of humor. But still, the acting isn't the biggest problem with this film.
While I haven't yet seen "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (on purpose) I have heard the accusations of how similar these two films are...aside from both containing Maggie Smith performances. In saying that, the only reason I went to see this movie was because of its director; obviously. So, when just talking about the direction of this movie, I have to say that there are moments that are tonal misfires (mostly orchestral pieces, which will come across as simply old people playing instruments and singing, rather than emotional sequences meant to resonate with audiences) and it doesn't help that the only real laugh out loud moment in this buddy comedy of sorts, seems to be unintentional. But that is not to say that most of "Quartet" isn't directed well enough. It is just too bad that the content chosen by Hoffman is essentially what will make this film almost instantaneously forgettable.
This leads me to the biggest problem with this film. Now, I won't even address the cop-out ending, which I didn't have as much of a problem with (considering the lead actors probably can't actually sing) as others did, when the biggest problem with this film is that as routine as it is, there is no bad guy. The plot goes that their retirement home is going to be shut down, yet there is no evil bank president rubbing his hands together menacingly. This is to say that there is hardly any conflict in "Quartet". All I'm saying is that if you are going to give audiences a story that they've already seen before, why remove the most compelling aspect of this genre type? The person the audience roots against.
Final Thought: Sure, "Quartet" may be a minor hit with the AARP crowd, but overall this film, while harmless, will be as dull and dry as one would think from watching the trailers. Simply stated, if this and "Hope Springs" are what passes as entertaining vehicles for award winning aging actors and actresses, then it may be true that there really aren't any good roles for actors over 60.
Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus
Even as predictable and cliched as it is, "Quartet" is still not a total loss, as it is also more than a little touching. That starts with Dustin Hoffman in his directorial debut, showing a bit of visual flair. And then there is the cast, including several ringers from the world of opera. Yes, one can make a case that Maggie Smith can do what she does in her sleep(and probably does), but that does not make it any less amazing, especially paired with the equally capable Tom Courtenay.
Hoffman does an adequate job on his belated directorial debut but his screenwriter, Ronald Harwood, lets him down. In adapting his stage play, Harwood fails to give the material a satisfying screen revision. There are too many loose strands which lead to unsatisfying resolutions, most notably the culture snob played by Gambon. Harwood sets him up as a villain, someone who thinks opera should be elitist. Courtenay believes the opposite, insisting that opera should be available to people of all backgrounds. "Rich people took the soul out of opera" he tells a room of students. We're primed for a showdown between the two but it never materializes, Gambon disappearing from the film in the third act.
Despite the shoddy storytelling, the movie is engaging, thanks to it's four leads. Smith and Courtenay are outstanding as one-time lovers, too proud now to inform each other of their true feelings. It's in the film's dialogue free moments that Smith really shows what a great screen actress she is, conveying more with her eyes than any screenwriter could ever hope to. Connolly has always irked me in his acting roles as it usually just feels like you're watching Connolly rather than the character he's supposed to be playing. Here though he's fantastic, almost unrecognizable with a short back and sides.
'Quartet' is enjoyable enough though all too often it opts for cheap laughs of the "old people swearing" variety and the leads, despite being terrific, never really convince you of the need for them to belong in a retirement home.
The movie was well received by the film critics but I will have to say that is made for targeted audience - I don't know too many young people interested in this subject! For me it was lulling inspirational fantasy/comedy with aging, cultured Englishfolk (and one randy Scot, played by Billy Connolly) living out their golden years in a beautifully maintained residence. Good acting, entertaining story and solid directing are the characteristics of this art work. Don't expect too much, though!