QUARTET is a moderately enjoyable comedy about aging British opera singers living in a retirement home for musicians.
The plot isn't convincing or memorable, but the wonderful cast, led by Maggie Smith, makes the film worth seeing.
Maggie Smith plays Jean a long time opera star now reduced to living in a retirement home with other singers and musicians.
Host to Jean: Welcome to Beecham house. Your room is a beautiful suite in what we call the B wing.
Jean: Sounds like a prison.
Instructor to a group of retiree's: Move those hips!
Jean (looking on): This is not a retirement home. this is a madhouse.
But Jean's biggest problem is Reggie played by Tom Courtenay. Reggie is the husband she betrayed years ago.
Jean: Reggie, don't I get a kiss? I apologize for hurting you. Please be kind to me. We were different people then. There, I've been rehearsing that for all the past week.
The other major plot point is that Jean, Reggie and two other former opera singers are being pushed to sing the quartet from Verdi's "Rigolletto" at the home's annual fundraising gala.
Michael Gambon as Cedric: If we can't make this gala into the hottest ticket in town, this house could collapse. We could lose it.
It's a flimsy plot, but the actors are charming old pros and the jokes are fun.
Hostess to elderly male resident: Why do you persist on flirting with me?
Old guy: Older man, vintage wine, seasoned wood. (Hostess laughs.)
You might expect Dustin Hoffman to be an actor friendly director and he is, giving the actors more time than usual to experiment on the set.
Hoffman: I think the most sensitive thing a director can do is let them fail. Let them try and fail and try and fail until you've let them have as much time as the other people had getting the set right. That's the best thing you can do I think is allow them that comfort zone.
Hoffman credits his wife for convincing him to finally direct a movie after more than four decades as a film actor.
Hoffman: I've come so close to directing films throughout the years and I've always pulled out thinking oh the script isn't right, the script isn't right. and my wife says if you wait for the script to be right, you'll never direct anything, because the script is never right.
The script isn't right this time either, but QUARTET benefits from Hoffman's light touch and leisurely pace.