Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Quartet


UK, 2012
Running Length: 98 minutes
Cast: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connelly, Pauline Collins, Michael Gambon, Andrew Sachs
Director:  Dustin Hoffman
Screenplay: Ronald Harwood
Cinematography: John de Borman

Set in a retirement home for aging musicians, Quartet features performances by stars from all areas of the performing arts.

Maggie Smith plays the diva, Jean, a former soprano known for her difficult temperament.  She arrives at the home unwillingly, much to the chagrin of her ex-husband who declares his desire for a dignified senility.  But with Jean’s arrival, just in time for the much-needed fundraising concert, the other three members of a vocal quartet realize she’s needed to complete the headlining act.

So much of the rest of the film revolves around trying to convince Jean to come out of retirement one last time, a perform to save the luxurious home the musicians have come to love.

The performances are good, but from actors of this calibre, you wouldn’t expect anything less.  But the script is predictable, and the setting so unrealistic it’s difficult to get past.  Anyone who has spent any time at all in a real old folks’ home will recognize the falsities of a home with this many residents, and only one real carer.  Especially with patients like Pauline Collins’ dementia sufferer.

Yet the wry humor is engaging, and the ending satisfying enough that you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face.  It’s really only on later reflection you realize how blatantly unrealistic the whole scenario is.

And seeing so many of Britain’s greats of stage and screen in one production is probably worth the admission price on its own.  It’s just a shame the film is so lacking in substance.


  1. This would probably be a film I'd enjoy. (I loved "Space Cowboys" with all those amazing old stars.) It's great if a film has substance, but wry humor is an acceptable substitute. :-)

  2. I actually applaud a film that can ignore practicality in a way that we don't realize it until after it's over.

  3. Sorry to hear that it's basically disappointing, but still sounds like it's worth a look.

  4. Great actors can make a mediocre film great Kate. At least it had some substance.