quartetFirst of all, don't confuse this film with A Late Quartet, about violinists and their last concert.

Stars: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Michael Gambon and Sheridan Smith
Director: Dustin Hoffman
Scriptwriter: Ronald Harwood
Cinematographer: John de Borman
Weinstein Company
Running Length 95 minutes
Rating: PG 13
First of all, don't confuse this film with I, about violinists and their last concert. That movie starred Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman. This Quartet concerns opera singers and a performance they don't want to be their last, just the best they have done so far in their lives.  Because they live in a retirement home that is on its last legs financially, and donor money would certainly help. Quartet is full of stars you wonder who was left in Hollywood or London. You don't have to be an opera or classical music lover, to find this film interesting, the production values are top-notch and Tom Courtenay is at his best.
Everyone at the retirement home (looks like a palatial palace and the grounds are like something from a French King) takes part in a yearly concert to benefit the home. They do their best, even though the high notes are ¼ off and perhaps the figure isn't quite as svelte. Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins are part of this group and the others are worried as Pauline is starting to slide into a form of dementia and can't remember things, plus she repeats everything and repeats and repeats. Enter the diva of diva’s, Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey), who almost married one of the male singers a long time ago, and he hasn't forgotten or forgiven. When each finds out the other is there, ice is in the air. The group wants Maggie, a soprano, to sing her famous song of which she got 12 encores, but she refuses. By this time, you can figure out where the story is headed as people try to persuade Maggie to sing and join the others in a famous quartet where each of them had praise in the past. This is sure to bring in rich donors if only tempers could be pushed aside. 
Tom Courtenay plays a quiet man and looks so sad., but comes alive when he teaches music to high school kids and enjoys hip hop with them. Billy Connolly is the comical one, forever with a quip, as is the brash-dressing Michael Gambon, who always makes a grand entrance. It is the bubbly Pauline who is the peacemaker, even though she sometimes forgets who she is talking to. The attendants at the retirement home are gems and you get the impression they really enjoy it. Some of the scenes at mealtime are humorous. Maggie Smith plays a softer version of her caustic-wit royalty from “Downton Abbey,” and she knows how to lay that line down. You actually don't hear the actors sing and just know that they are playing opera stars with their favorite arias played in the background. It works well.
Quartet is a beautiful film to watch, not only for the retirement home, but for the years and years of acting talent in front of you. Each has their own way of acting and they don't get in each other’s way. The script is a bit light-hearted and moves fast and Dustin Hoffman has a grasp on the actors and the story, with a special eye for the camera, too. Musicians truly are a special group of people.
Copyright 2013 Marie Asner

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