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Published on April 26th, 2013 | by Yellow Magpie


Quartet Film Review: Behind The Mask Of Musical Fame

Quartet Film Review

Director: Dustin Hoffman.
Cast: Tom Courtney, Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins.

Here is Yellow Magpie’s Quartet film review.

Quartet is a fun, light film dealing with the two themes old age and a mostly forgotten fame. Filled with accomplished actors that dispense well-rounded renditions and armed with a solid script and good direction it is a highly accomplished film.

 Quartet Film Review Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins) And Jean Horton (Maggie Smith)

Beecham House is a retirement home with a difference. It houses only people who are high achievers in the musical world. Wilf, Cissy and Reginald are members of a once famous quartet. All former opera singers, they are noted for their critically acclaimed version of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

‘Dealing almost exclusively with the elderly it refuses to descend into condescension.’

The trio have their comfortable routines though the arrival of the forth member of the quartet, Jean Horton, creates some consternation. Her entrance has a profound effect on Reginald who, as her former husband, is deeply upset by the presences of the new resident. on top of these personal distractions, Beecham House is not doing too-well financially and there is only one way to save the special retirement home.

Quartet is an unusual film. Dealing almost exclusively with the elderly it refuses to descend into condescension.

 Quartet Film Review Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay) And Jean Horton (Maggie Smith)

Pauline Collins’s Cissy Robson is an Alzheimer’s sufferer who sporadically transitions from complete lucidity to episodes of confusion. Collins delivers as a masterful performance fully capturing a blend of intermittent knowingness and the somewhat innocent nature of her character. Collins’s portrayal is so flawless that we could be easily watching a documentary of a real person.

‘Playing one of the most likeable characters in the film Connolly is at his finest in such roles.’

Billy Connolly’s Wilf is the man with the wisecracks. The man that everybody enjoys being around, Wilf is a wiley old rogue that knows how people think. Connolly gets the choice lines and delivers them with the perfect timing you would expect from a man who has made his name in comedy. Playing one of the most likeable characters in the film Connolly is at his finest in such roles.

Reginald Paget is a character with an unresolved past. This is exposed with the arrival of Horton. Tom Courtenay produces a subtle performance as a man trying to reconcile the past with the present. Courtenay’s Paget is warm, articulate and curious. There is an implied hint that Paget is comfortable in his life. Someone with an already established routine the introduction of his ex-wife sees Courtney drawing our attention as his character tries to self-right himself.

Quartet Film Review Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins) And Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly)

Michael Gambon plays Cedric Livingston, a former director. Livingston is a familiar character to us all. A manipulative hack he invariably gets his way by controlling people either through coercion or the use of flattery. Gambon’s Livingston hits all the right notes.

‘Smith excels in the role of the awkward, relentlessly unaccommodating woman.’

Finally, there is the woman with the scene-stealing performance. Maggie Smith’s Jean Horton is the cause of much of the conflict that arises in the film. A mixture of false bravado, unfettered egotism and inferiority much of the film’s drama comes from her attempts to clumsily integrate herself with her new environment. Smith excels in the role of the awkward, relentlessly unaccommodating woman.

At its heart Quartet is a film about the interplay of drama between of a group of people who are either reconciled or trying to reconcile their life achievements. The big emotions of love and sorrow are interspersed with pride and jealously. Quartet delivers us not only the character’s reactions to age-related emotional upheaval but also their true motivations.

 Quartet Film Review Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly), Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay) And Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins)

Quartet is based on the real-life retirement home for musicians, Casa Verdi in Italy. Though ostensibly the storyline of Quartet could have taken place in any nursing or retirement home, setting it in a place solely for musicians does give an added dimension. This gives the viewer access to the world of the theatrical without any pretension. There is a truthfulness and transparency to the characters  no doubt brought about by the fatigue of having to conceal their true feelings.

In Quartet we get to see the character’s deep insecurities. We watch the effects their fall from the public’s eye has had on their self-esteem and we witness the fragility of their egos. What’s more, we observe the character’s inferiority complexes – the original drivers of their careers in the limelight. For these rarities alone Quartet deserves to be seen.

Recommended Reading/Viewing

You can obtain Quartet here from Amazon.

For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Quartet from here.

For Canada: Quartet.

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