Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly
You may like this if you liked: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2011), Calender Girls (Nigel Cole, 2003) anything light and fluffy.
Beecham House is a home for retired musicians where the residents put on an annual concert to raise money to keep the home open. Cecily (Pauline Collins), Wilfred (Connolly) and Reggie (Courtenay) plan to sing a piece by Verdi that they all sang together at the peak of their careers which they believe will raise enough money to keep Beecham House going for quite a few years. A new resident arrives in the form of Jean Horton (Smith), ex wife of Reggie and still acting like a diva who disrupts the harmony the group of three have. Jean was the other who sang on the Verdi piece as part of the quartet that was so successful at the time. They decide to try and persuade Jean to perform it once again with them at the annual concert, but Jean is extremely reluctant and it also means Jean and Reggie burying a few ghosts from the past.
Without even watching there are immediate and unavoidable comparisons here to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as Quartet is part of an increasingly frequently made group of films aimed at the so called ‘grey pound’. These are essentially films about old people for an old person that have a nice heartfelt story that is quite is quite easy going and has a nice balance of sincerity and comedy. That is essentially what Quartet is, I was also by far the youngest person in the sold out (!) cinema when I saw it. However, this is not to say it automatically alienates anyone under 60, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had here by all ages.
For all the stigmas attached to Marigold Hotel I actually found it perfectly enjoyable and Quartet is pretty much the same. With a concept like this and the menagerie of different characters the comedy pretty much writes itself and there are some very funny moments, I certainly never thought I would here Tom Courtenay call a woman a “skinny twat”. There is of course substance to the story and there are attempts to cover all the usual themes of getting old and the many emotions that comes with this. However to maintain a light hearted tone these are often broken up by comic lines are never dealt with in depth. The story is very predictable but this is forgivable due to the enjoyable nature of the story and the fact that the film is almost fully aware of its place in that is not going to change anyone’s outlook on life. The supporting cast who play the residents of the home are all retired musicians and performers which add a real sense of authenticity.
One of the major factors in Quartets favour is that is very well made, taking advantage of the film’s beautiful settings, both interior and exterior. It is very well directed and well shot; the cinematography is excellent giving a very autumnal feel. Though this is Dustin Hoffman’s first directorial offering, having worked with some of the greatest directors in his long career this is hardly the work of a film student having his first go at directing a feature. I have heard complaints about the ending, but for me personally it was fitting and made in the appropriate way.
In summary, Quartet is a very well made and genuinely entertaining film. Lacking in substance but a good light-hearted romp, and perfect if you fancy a light hearted viewing experience with plenty of laughs along the way.