Having a Little Fun
At a retirement home for elderly musicians and opera singers there is a general harmony between everyone as they are preparing to put on their annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday. About the only tension is from Wilf's (Billy Connolly) charming flirtations with Dr. Lucy Cogan (Sheridan Smith) which sees him get preferential treatment although his friend Reginald (Tom Courtenay) keeps quiet about his annoyance. That is until diva Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) shows up as not only is she demanding but Reginald is also her ex husband who doesn't even want to be in the same building as the woman who divorced him. But it seems that Jean has other plans and there is a reason why she chose the same retirement home as her former husband.
First things first and "Quartet" features an entertaining mix of stories as we have the complicated situation as Jean and Reginald end up in the same retirement home where there true feelings for each other start to show. But on top of that we also have a secret which Jean has which weighs heavy on her along with another storyline about putting on the concert for Verdi's birthday with a group wanting Jean to perform but she is not keen on singing anymore. These stories keep "Quartet" ticking over and have just enough complexity so it never feels boring but not so much that you feel a huge demand on your attention to follow. For me it is just right, a perfect Sunday afternoon movie for lazing in front of the box to.
But the real heart of "Quartet" is in the characters and every single one is so perfectly drawn that you warm to everyone of them. Wilf is such a charming flirt and a crafty one at that who has whisky stashed in secret locations is such a warm character that we feel for his every ache as he struggles to stand and every moment of aging fragility. It is the same with Reginald who carries on in quiet dignity as things happen around him much to his annoyance; you know exactly how he feels as he has always come second to those around him getting things their way. And then there is Jean such a beautifully drawn character that she is both a diva but someone we know is having struggles which she wants to keep to herself but in truth needs someone else. I could go on because every single character has dimensions and they make us laugh and feel for them.
Now I should mention Dustin Hoffman as "Quartet" is his first official step behind the lens and he has done a good job especially when it comes to the movie's pacing and blend of humour and drama. But Hoffman has filled the screen with wonderful actors be it Pauline Collins as Cissy who is always happy or Billy Connolly who at times steals the movie from all those around him with one of those charming, humorous performances. But the stars of the movie are Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay who bring dignity, warmth, compassion and so much more to the movie with Courtenay looking remarkably like an old Jimmy Stewart, at times a little spookily like him.
What this all boils down to is that "Quarter" is another one of those movies which not only shows the class of our aging actors but also delivers the warmth which comes from focusing on old people getting on in life and dealing with it whilst also delivering the humour of those who no longer care what others think about them.