Friday, January 25, 2013

Quartet - four times the pleasure.

There were three films at last year’s Starz Denver Film Festival with the word quartet in the title. Quartet, the best of those, returns to Denver today.

Making his directorial debut with this charming film, Dustin Hoffman shows us that he can not only act, he can direct.

Beecham House is a very opulent ‘retirement’ home for musicians and other performers. And right now it is buzzing with the rumor that a ‘star’ performer is imminently to take up residence. Who can it be?

The residents are also in the midst of preparing their annual gala: it is a bit like the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musicals – ‘let’s get a barn and put on a show!’ In this case the barn looks like the manor house in Downton Abbey and ‘kids’ are replaced by superannuated performers, among them Reginald Paget (Tom Courtney), Wilfred Bond (Billy Connolly) and Cecily Robson (Pauline Collins).

Into this mix arrives the ‘star’ Jean Horton (Maggie Smith). The arrival is a thunderbolt to Wilfred and Cecily but particularly to Reginald – Reggie. The four had formed a quartet in the past until Jean moved on to a solo career (with accompanying ego) that left behind hard feelings and more in the case of Reggie. He and Jean had been married and the breakup of the quartet also saw the breakup of the marriage.
Ahh, but the plot thickens even more.

It is proposed by the gala director, the wonderful Michael Gambon, that now that Jean is in residence the quartet should reform and perform one of their signature works, Verdi’s Quartet.

The film is a lovely and charming work. Just as I find those old Rooney/Garland movies entertaining so too did I enjoy Quartet. It is enjoyable for the performances, not just of Courtney, Smith Connolly and Collins but everyone else in the film.

Hoffman as an actor understands that as a director he can let good actors do their work – point them in the right direction and get out of the way. All of the residents are portrayed by performers actually playing themselves and they are all quite good.

A fun and rewarding device in the end credits is the showing of then and now photos of the performers.

The screenplay by Ronald Harwood is based on his play of the same name that ran in the West End.

This is a wonderful ensemble piece in the spirit of one of my favorite films from last year: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. oh, and we do get to hear the Verdi Quartet. Lovely.

Quartet opens an exclusive engagement at the Esquire.

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