This is the live action, very British, retirement home version of "The Muppets", with a "we have to get the band back together in order to save the community center" premise. Directed by Rain Man himself, Dustin Hoffman, in his curiously bland first attempt at a feature film, "Quartet" isn't an insightful tale about getting old or as witty of a British comedy as it wants to be, or thinks that it is.
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
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