Perfect teeth, lacking bite
Although Dustin Hoffman’s first effort at directing will hopefully not be his last, there is certainly room for improvement on this movie spotlighting the somewhat predictable shenanigans in a home for retired (aka remarkably sprightly) musicians.
We join the inhabitants of Beecham house as they prepare for a gala concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday – and hopefully keep the old battleship afloat a little bit longer.
Michael Gambon plays the crusty gay producer bullying former stars into some kind of performance. Three of these (played by Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay) were part of a quartet famous for its rendition of Bella Figlia dell’amore from Verdi’s Rigoletto and are joined now by the fourth, grand dame Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) as she makes the dreaded transition from independence to life in a home waiting for a hip replacement.
The movie makes a couple of successful choices: it concentrates on atmosphere as created by music, both performed and on soundtrack, and setting – breakfast rooms and activity parlours in which the enforced languor of old age is only partially stifled. However: Hoffman’s cast of ‘mature’ British thespians all seem to possess sound teeth, and might have appreciated a storyline and some dialogue with a bit more bite.
Quartet | Directed by Dustin Hoffman (UK 2012) with Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly. Starts January 24