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Quartet - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: C
Cinematography: B
Editing: C+

If there is anything great about Quartet, it is the actors in it -- and they are all actors who proved their greatness in other movies, not this one. This is one blandly pleasant, and perfectly forgettable movie.

It's heartening to see people like Maggie Smith, who is now 78 years old, getting such frequent work. Too bad not all of it can be as great as Downton Abbey or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Quartet bears a few similarities to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, except that it's a little more like the after-school-special version of it. With old people. This movie is not going to find any massive audience.

It's about retired musicians, who all live in a home just for them -- it says so right on the van: Home for Retired Musicians. Does such a thing exist? It seems a little contrived. Like this entire movie. Several once-famous opera singers live in this home. Jean Horton (Smith) is the latest arrival. Her coming has deeply upset Reginald (Tom Courtenay), who spends about half the movie so angry with her it goes beyond the bounds of believability, and then predictably they become friends. Their revealed history does not quite match up to Reginald's weird hostility.

Evidently they were both once part of a very well-known quartet -- hence the title -- and the other two are also living in his home: Cissy (Pauline Collins), whose purpose seems to be making dementia seem cute and charming; and Wilf (Billy Connolly), whose randiness gets wildly overplayed and stretched uncomfortably thin.

The crux of the story here is that the home is having financial struggles, and the thinking is that if they can get this quartet to reunite for a performance at the annual fundraiser gala, they could buy the home another year or two of operations. It's a blindingly obvious sign of what we can expect for the rest of the movie. Jean, who has not performed in years, refuses to reunite, and we never take her seriously.

The love for British acting greats like these is well-deserved, but does not serve this particular film well. Directed by Dustin Hoffman with a frankly unsure hand, we get a lot of vignettes of other residents practicing their songs and music in preparation for the gala -- nearly all with at least decent delivery, and actual performance on camera. Not so with the principals, who are supposed to be the musical "greats." Maggie Smith never once actually sings on camera. Nor do any of the other three. It's a bit strange for a movie about musicians -- written by Ronald Harwood, based on his own play. One can only assume the stage version featured actual singers, and they cast these actors not for their musicality but merely for their cinematic pedigrees.

Quartet never veers into the truly terrible. There are many, many worse movies than this. As many complaints as I have about it, I never found myself wondering what time it was or feeling contempt for anyone involved in the making of it. The flip side is that neither did I feel any great respect or admiration. This movie elicits feelings of indifference. This is something that could have been a great deal better, and from that perspective it was a tad disappointing.

(L-R) Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins make for a perfectly contrived QUARTET.

Overall: B-
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