Movie Review: Quartet

Incidentally, I discovered that there was a 1981 movie called Quartet, also starring Maggie Smith.

The Wife and I decided we wanted to see a movie Sunday afternoon, which was a bit ambitious since church tends to run long on the first Sunday. The Daughter and we fairly bolted out the door, picked up the babysitter – no, make that child watcher, per the Daughter’s instruction – dropped them at home, then got to the Spectrum at 12:47 to see the 12:55 showing of Quartet.

There is a home for retired musicians in a lovely part of rural England. Every year, there is a concert to make sure the home will be solvent for another year. The director of the production, Cedric (Michael Gambon), imperiously decides who is in and who is out. Reginald (Tom Courtenay), the musician who sees parallels with opera and rap, is in, as are the lecherous Wilf (Billy Connolly), and the increasingly addled Cissy (Pauline Collins). Then Jean (Maggie Smith), someone from their past moves into the home; Reg is particularly peeved by this turn of events. Jean, proud and sad to be forced into this situation, has her own issues with yet another resident.

I enjoyed this film by 75-year-old first-time director Dustin Hoffman, who tells a pleasant tale about aging, fear, and complicated personal histories. The characters were engaging, and I found myself caring for them a great deal. I also enjoyed the minor characters, many of whom you find out more about in the end credits.

Oddly, this film has been compared, generally unfavorably, with the depressing film Amour. One example by Matt Pais of RedEye: “Unlike the devastating portrait of aging in Michael Haneke’s Amour, Quartet favors cheeky over honest.” Well, I sure hope so! Quartet is primarily a comedy, its dealing with the ailments of getting older was meant to suggest that one perseveres anyway, while one can.

A couple weeks ago, Maggie Smith was on CBS News’ 60 Minutes. She HATES doing interviews and it showed; she’s indifferent to the fame the British TV series Downton Abbey has suddenly foisted on the 78-year-old actress. However, she was most effusive with her praise for director Hoffman. For his part, he appreciated her being “difficult” because it was always about creating a better movie.

Incidentally, I discovered that there was a 1981 movie called Quartet, also starring Maggie Smith.

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