Quartet

Quartet Poster“Ah, Bach!”
If you’re a fan of M*A*S*H, you’ll get the reference. Hawkeye advises classical-music neophyte Radar to use the phrase as a catch-all to impress a nurse. Still cracks me up. That said, here we go:

“Ah, Verdi!”
If that means anything to you at all, then it’s quite possible you’ll like Quartet. For what it’s worth, my mother was lukewarm about it; Arty Chick’s mother loved it. Both know their stuff when it comes to classical music. The film is about a home for retired musicians who put on an annual concert/fundraiser to celebrate the birthday of Italian composer Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi. Think The Golden Girls meets The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, only never quite as fun or funny, despite excellent performances by a bevy of British royalty of stage and screen.

Maggie Smith plays Jean Horton, an opera diva whose arrival at Beecham House triggers mixed emotions, especially for resident Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), to whom Jean was married once, very briefly, a long time ago. Reggie wants nothing to do with Jean, but his pals – including Wilf (Billy Connolly), a dirty old coot whose stroke left him with ‘no filter’, and Cissy (Pauline Collins), a charming lady battling dementia – want Reggie to convince Jean to join them in recreating the third-act Quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto. She proves to be a tough sell.

The story is a sweet and simple one, based on a play. And I’m sure it marks a true labor of love for first-time director and classical music buff Dustin Hoffman. But the characters and their motivations aren’t fully developed and the film is rather slow, which translates into rather boring. Quartet has moments of comedy and poignancy that will surely resonate with some. But overall, I was disappointed. Ah, Verdi, you’re just not my cup of tea.

p.s. It doesn’t help that a similar-titled film, A Late Quartet, with Philip Seymour Hoffman came out around the same time. I’m sure it has an excellent soundtrack. But I think I’ll wait for Arty Chick’s review on that one.

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