If you think a retirement home is populated only with stodgy old biddy bodies just waiting to die, you haven’t seen the movie The Quartet.
The setting is Beecham House, a charity retirement home for musicians in England. It is a beautiful place and could easily be a neighbor of Downton Abbey. The mansion is alive with all kinds of music as the residents prepare for their annual fund raising event, the celebration of Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday.
We see enthusiastic rehearsals peppered with artistic differences, temperamental musicians, and the ever-present diva. Then the biggest diva of all arrives; the operatic soprano who never had less than 12 curtain calls, Jean Horton, played by the regal Maggie Smith. Smith has become an expert at displaying haughty disdain with a look and a few well-chosen words.
Ms. Horton’s arrival completes a long-time famous quartet who has been living contentedly at the home. Reginald or “Reg” is Ms. Horton’s ex-husband which automatically creates tension. Then we have “Cissy” who walks a fine line between reality and the other world and Wilfred or “Wilf” played by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Wilf is an aging playboy who says that, thankfully, he still has enough testosterone left to make life interesting.
Will the quartet get back together and reprise their roles? A lot more than the financial security of the home depends upon whether or not they will; they learn a lot about themselves along the way. You are never too old to live life and have a little fun.
This is actor Dustin Hoffman’s first directing effort and he nurtures his project into a flowering bouquet of colorful moments.
The Quartet is entertaining, beautiful, touching, poignant, and funny. It also has a few surprises at the end. I give it a B+