Tagline: It’s never too late to change your tune.
Adapted by screenwriter Ronald Harwood from his own 1999 play, Quartet seems to be for the same crowd who found much to enjoy in last year’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
We’re in the U.K., and specifically at a care home in the countryside for retired actors and singers (which, of course, is where every British entertainer heads once their moment in the sun has passed). The focus is on four residents – Jean (Maggie Smith), Wilf (Billy Connolly), Cissy (Pauline Collins) and Reggie (Tom Courtenay) – and whether they’ll be able to overcome various stumbling blocks in order to perform the quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto at a benefit for their home.
And despite the solid cast, most of the attention has surrounded a certain first-time 75-year-old American director by the name of Dustin Hoffman. Time Out London feels that Hoffman “draws endearing performances from his cast, and a host of supporting actors played by singers and musicians grounds its more farcical and rarefied elements in white-haired reality.” The Daily Telegraph was similarly charmed: “Quartet is a lovely old lolloping Labrador of a film. It bounds over to you, eyes bright and tail wagging, and you smilingly allow it curl up on your feet.” But TIME’s Mary Pols wasn’t nearly as enthused, calling the film “terribly cloying and cutesy”, while the Guardian went straight for the jugular: “It’s a movie with the atmosphere of a day centre in which the windows are never opened.” Ouch.
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NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Neither film will be making it onto the 2013 year-end lists, but Quartet might be the more charming option — though as far as plot and cast are concerned, Gangster Squad has the firepower.