Quartet

December 13, 2016 - Comment

Beecham House is abuzz. The rumor circling the halls is that the home for retired musicians is soon to play host to a new resident. Word is, it’s a star. For Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), Wilfred Bond (Billy Connolly) and Cecily Robson (Pauline Collins) this sort of talk is par for the course at the

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Beecham House is abuzz. The rumor circling the halls is that the home for retired musicians is soon to play host to a new resident. Word is, it’s a star. For Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), Wilfred Bond (Billy Connolly) and Cecily Robson (Pauline Collins) this sort of talk is par for the course at the gossipy home. But they’re in for a special shock when the new arrival turns out to be none other than their former singing partner, Jean Horton (Maggie Smith). Her subsequent career as a star soloist, and the ego that accompanied it, split up their long friendship and ended her marriage to Reggie, who takes the news of her arrival particularly hard. Can the passage of time heal old wounds? And will the famous quartet be able to patch up their differences in time for Beecham House’s gala concert?Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman has never been one to zig when he can zag. Not only did he wait until he was in his mid-70s to direct his first feature film, but his crowd-pleasing adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s 1999 play is a thoroughly British affair. Set at one of England’s most scenic estates, the fictional Beecham House for Retired Musicians, Quartet centers on four opera singers. Cecily (Pauline Collins), Wilfred (Billy Connolly), and Reginald (Tom Courtenay, who appeared in Harwood’s The Dresser) are busy preparing for the annual Verdi Gala when word spreads about a famous new resident. After Reggie catches sight of the elegant figure, his excitement about the benefit gives way to sorrow: it’s his ex-wife, Jean (Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith). If the amusingly acid-tongued Jean appears to have moved on–she’s married twice since–Reggie hasn’t, and still blames her for the failure of their brief marriage. Under the directorship of the supremely self-satisfied Cedric (Michael Gambon), the entire facility continues to rehearse for the concert, except Jean, who says she’s retired from singing, though her former partners long to perform their acclaimed version of Verdi’s Rigoletto. As they concentrate on persuading her to reconsider, the ice between Reggie and Jean starts to thaw just as Cissy’s memory starts to fade, but priorities shift as old friends become reacquainted. If Quartet doesn’t offer many significant surprises, Hoffman skillfully honors the humor, the romance, and the wall-to-wall music–most played by veteran performers–of Harwood’s warm-hearted script. –Kathleen C. Fennessy

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Comments

Jay B. Lane says:

2012 Quartet, NOT Merchant Ivory! Here is a cast to die for, playing characters in a home for retired opera singers; they are preparing for their annual celebration of Verdi’s birthday. But there is a “spanner (wrench) in the works” when a former diva arrives, in the person of Maggie Smith. Based on the play by Ronald Harwood and directed by first-timer Dustin Hoffman, this delicious PG-13 comedy bathes us in classical music, witty dialogue and a lovely setting. In fact the opening credits include some of the finest editing…

Sharon Isch says:

Will you love it? Or hate it? There doesn’t seem to be an in-between. I’m not sure if you have to be over the hill (as I am), to love this movie (as I did) about a home for retired musicians, but it certainly appears that way to me after coming home and reading A. O. Scott’s middling New York Times review and its online reader responses, which seem to be either total disdain or absolute delight and nothing in between. It probably helps to have a lifelong love of classical music, especially opera, with just a smidgen of Gilbert & Sullivan &…

Gio says:

Never-Neverland Revisited Beecham House, the setting of this film, is an English country estate, a posh historical mansion surrounded by acres of park and garden. It’s autumn, the leaves are gorgeous, Golden Pond was never so scenic, and the inhabitants — a couple dozen octogenarian “retired professional musicians living on charity — are effectively in Paradise. They’re a handsome crowd too, these oldsters with much of their talent and all of their ego intact. Not an oxygen tank or a movable chemo-drip in sight…

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