Quartet Blu-ray Review
Dustin Hoffman has always been a perfectionist in his acting career. He’s had some famous battles over the years with directors regarding how to play a role. It therefore is surprising that his directorial debut is the laid back QUARTET. It is a breezy pleasant film about retired musicians that doesn’t tax the mind, but will surely bring a smile to the face.
QUARTET takes place in a retirement home called The Beecham House in England for musicians and singers. In real life the composer Giuseppi Verdi built a similar place in Italy. Hoffman does a nice job of capturing the feel of the home with the camera capturing these performers as they still ply their craft. Hoffman was wise to cast real life musicians and singers for various roles. It adds a bit of authenticity that cannot be matched by mere actors.
The main players in this lovely piece are Reggie (Tom Courtenay), Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Cissy (Pauline Collins). All of them were opera singers in their prime and they had worked together most famously in Rigoletto, which of course was composed by Verdi. These actors have great chemistry and it shows every second on the screen. Reggie is the serious one. He has the caretaker role here. He keeps Wilf in line and looks lovingly over Cissy. Courtenay has a quiet ease about his performance. There are no wasted movements. He says so much with just his facial expressions and hand movements. Wilf is the ham of the bunch. Connolly is a great comedian and he handles the more dramatic scenes with aplomb. Collins might have the trickiest role of them all. Cissy is so exuberant and full of life. She is also suffering from the early stages of dementia. So Collins has to be upbeat in one scene and quite forgetful in another. It is a balancing act that she pulls off quite nicely.
The Beecham House throws a gala every year to raise much needed money for the facility. This year is especially important because of a money crunch. Cedric (Michael Gambon) is the director of the affair. Along with Connolly, Gambon provides a lot of the laughs as he tries to get the acts in working shape. Cedric gets good news when premier opera singer Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) joins the ranks. This causes quite a buzz as the residents flock to see her and applaud her arrival. It causes upheaval for other residents however. Wilf and Cissy are happy to see their old comrade from Rigoletto. Reggie is none too pleased since she was his ex-wife and the breakup did go well.
The scenes with Reggie and Jean are heartbreaking and real. You can feel the pain in Reggie’s face when he first spots her. Jean is overly apologetic to try to rectify the situation and smooth things over with him. It is refreshing to see relationships portrayed in the twilight years. Much time is spent on the younger generation that this whole age group gets neglected.
Cedric comes up with a good idea to get the old gang back together again to perform. Jean and Reggie are resistant at first with the idea. Jean had not sung in years and didn’t want to embarrass herself. Reggie wasn’t fond of singing with his ex-wife and drudging up the old feelings he once had. You can probably predict how this is going to end up, but there are certainly major roadblocks to get around.
Hoffman does well in his directorial debut working off the subtle screenplay from Ronald Harwood. He doesn’t show off and do any fancy camera tricks to show his skill. He takes his time on the scenes. I especially like the scenes where we peer in while someone is tickling the ivory or belting out a song. It feels like we have a backstage pass at a concert. And I never would compare opera and rap, but somehow Harwood does it in a fascinating scene that features Reggie with some students.
QUARTET offers a nice lesson that you are never too old to embrace and live life. Sure it is a tad predictable, but still quite poignant.
QUARTET BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: It is a nice transfer. The shading is pitch perfect.
Audio: I loved the vibrant sound that is so important to this film. Every instrument and voice is crystal clear.
Commentary with Director Dustin Hoffman: Hoffman provides exactly what I want from a commentary. He offers fascinating insight into the various sets, actors and scenes. I loved hearing that he encouraged the actors to ad lib or that his attention to detail stretched all the way to casting the small roles.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes: The Director (3:57), The Story (3:19), The Music (2:55), The Salsa (1:06), The Dance (2:12), The Stairlift (1:17): Each featurette has some nuggets to chew on. You get to learn about Hoffman’s directing style, the origins of the story, the importance of the music and the planning of various scenes.