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Review: Quartet

Score:76

Director:Dustin Hoffman

Cast:Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly

Running Time:98 Minutes

Rated:PG-13

Movies don't get much lighter"”or enjoyable"”than Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut. This is one of those leisurely Sunday afternoon films we don't get that often, because every weekend must bring some box-office champion.

Quartet is mostly about a trio for its first half-hour, made up of former opera singers played by goofy Pauline Collins, uptight Tom Courtenay, and randy Billy Connolly. They all live at the Beecham House for Retired Musicians, which is easily the nicest retirement home ever portrayed onscreen. They enjoy their simple existence as they prepare for their annual showcase, which raises money for the home.

Life is dull but rewarding until everything's upended by the arrival of Maggie Smith, the woman who broke up their band years ago. Anyone hoping for Smith to be as nasty as she is Downton Abbey will be sorely disappointed. There's more sadness than vitriol running through her veins here.

Michael Gambon, playing the drama queen who organizes the showcases proposes a reunion, even though Tom Courtenay protests, harboring bitterness toward his old partner. This is such a nice movie filled with nice people that it should be easy to figure out what the end result will be, but it's still touching when it gets there.

Like most movies based on stage plays, the direction is unexceptional and the action very minimal. I'm most reminded of last year's Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. While that movie had some serious heartbreak, I liked this movie more because it never tries to be anything more than a jolly old romp. Any threads about mental illness or getting older are glossed over because this is a movie ultimately about forgiveness.

But my favorite aspect of the movie is the cast that's not billed. Since the house is full of retired musicians, every single resident of the home is played by someone who performed for years in the UK and Europe, from opera singers, orchestra members, and other musicians. It's a nice touch to a movie that's extremely low-key. Quartet is not a great movie and doesn't suggest that Dustin Hoffman is a force behind the camera, but it's a perfect light alternative to all the heavy movies headed our way. 

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About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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