Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut

Quartet, BFI London Film Festival

3.00

 

There are some people who will loathe Quartet, a cutesy chamber piece about a retirement home for classical musicians. But they are are not likely to be the film's target demographic.

Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut is the latest example of a recent Hollywood effort to cater more to an older audience. Most prominent has been The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, like Quartet about a group of retirees whiling away the twilight of their lives in an unfeasibly attractive location - and also like Quartet starring Dame Maggie Smith. Patronising as it may be, the "pensioner pound" has never been so powerful.

Quartet does not go down the racy retirees route of some similar films, instead choosing to err very much on the cuddly side of caution where the romantic exploits of its characters are concerned. Lifelong friends and former colleagues Cissy (Pauline Collins), Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Reg (Tom Courtenay) live in Beecham House, a gorgeous stone edifice set somewhere in the English countryside dedicated to housing ageing artistes and nurturing what is left of their talent (rather a lot as a matter of fact). Around every corner is a lofty soprano or earnest clarinet player.

But Beecham is on the brink of closure. When snooty grande dame Jean Horton (Smith) moves in it seems there may be a way to save it. But can she and her old pals, with whom she once sang a world-renowned recording of Verdi's Rigoletto, including her ex-husband, manage to get along?

It's definitely not what the musical would call verismo. The idea, for example, that a place like this could possibly be publicly funded is ludicrous, the luxe drawing rooms awash with antique chaises longues and silk soft furnishings. Jean is apparently on the waiting list for a new hip but we never see her physically struggle. Indeed, the greatest worry these residents have is not quibbles with visiting relatives or financial concerns, but whether they are being given the correct condiments at breakfast.

Nonetheless, what saves Quartet from becoming too saccharine is the wit and warmth of its central characters. Hoffman, himself 75, clearly has great affection for his cast and they for him. Smith, of course, is haughty as ever, and Connolly, and also Michael Gambon in a smaller role, are both hilarious, especially the former as the randy old tenor intent on chatting up everything that moves (the effervescent young Dr Lucy, played by Sheridan Smith, most of all). Courtenay as Reg, still nursing a broken heart, shows with subtlety how vulnerable we can be in love, no matter what our age.

It's a fairytale retirement for sure. If what you're after is an unbridled look at time's barbarity then you will be better off with Michael Haneke's Amour. But as light, heartfelt entertainment this will certainly hit the spot for some. Especially Verdi fans. Bravo.

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project