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Movie Review: Quartet

January 18, 2013

Quartet PosterQuartet – An Alliance Films’ Release

Release Date: January 18th, 2013

Rated PG for language and tobacco use

Running time: 98 minutes

Dustin Hoffman (dir.)

Ronald Harwood (screenplay)

Based on the stage play by Ronald Harwood

Dario Marianelli (music)

Maggie Smith as Jean Horton

Tom Courtenay as Reginald Paget

Billy Connolly as Wilf Bond

Pauline Collins as Cissy Robson

Michael Gambon as Cedric Livingston

Sheridan Smith as Dr. Lucy Cogan

Andrew Sachs as Bobby Swanson

Dame Gwyneth Jones as Anne Langley

Trevor Peacock as George

David Ryall as Harry


©Alliance Films.  All Rights Reserved.

Wilf (Billy Connolly), Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), Reginald (Tom Courtney) and Cissy (Pauline Collins) in Quartet.

Our reviews below:


Quartet Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

After proving himself as an excellent actor over the years, the great Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with Quartet, nicely demonstrating that he can also be a capable force behind the camera.  With a good ensemble cast of classic actors, this is a charmingly light little film that seems perfectly suited to an audience of older moviegoers.

Taking place entirely at the Beecham House for Retired Musicians, the film follows a group of aging opera singers.  Wilf (Billy Connolly) is a playful old man who spends his days in the company of the increasingly forgetful Cissy (Pauline Collins) and the uptight Reginald (Tom Courtenay).  But their world is about to change when famed singer Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) moves in, an elderly woman who is the fourth member of their old operatic quartet and has past romantic connections with Reginald.  But they are all forced to confront their differences when the flamboyant Cedric (Michael Gambon) asks them to perform together one last time at a benefit for the home.

Although the story is somewhat predictable and any overly dramatic elements are kept at bay, Quartet works as a nice piece of feel good entertainment that is sure to go over very well with the aforementioned audience of more mature moviegoers.  The film is destined to draw comparisons to the excellent and superior The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which also featured Maggie Smith as part of an ensemble cast, and here she delivers another fine performance.  Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins also get moments to shine in Quartet, with Billy Connolly providing some of the funniest and most memorable lines.

As we reach the heartwarming final scene, it’s easy to imagine many people leaving the theatre still smiling about the feel good experience of the film.  Although created with a senior audience in mind, I found myself charmed by Quartet and it’s worth seeing for the good performances of the ensemble cast.


Quartet Review by Erin V.  

*** (out of 4)

Quartet tells the story of a retirement home in England for retired musicians and opera singers.  Each year the residents get together and perform at a gala to celebrate Verdi’s birthday and raise enough money to keep their home running for another year.

Former conductor Cedric Livingston (Michael Gambon) has taken on the position of running the gala and is always holding ‘secret meetings’ to deal with new crisises as to what everyone will be performing and how to get better ticket sales than in previous years.  At the top of the list to perform are former singers Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly), and Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins).  All three are good friends and things seem to be going fine, but just as they are getting ready for the gala, a new resident arrives – Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), famous opera singer… and former wife of Reginald.

The film is very character driven, and really about how each of these very different but also similar people adjust to retirement and the fact that they aren’t as young as they used to be.  It is a story about the love of music, and about friendships either current or currently broken.  There is a lot to like here, and the film will find a very appreciative audience especially among older moviegoers.  Based on a British stage play, and with an excellent cast, this Dustin Hoffman directed film is well worth checking out.


Quartet Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Imagine a place where retired musicians and opera singers could live together in their elder years.  Quartet follows the residents of Beecham House, a fictional home for retired classical musicians.  The retirement home is at risk of closing, so the residents are hoping to make this year’s annual concert a real hit.

Their dream may become a reality when retired opera singer Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) moves into Beecham House.  Trouble is, she isn’t happy at Beecham House, since her ex-husband Reggie (Tom Courtenay), who still loves her also lives there.  However, Jean and Reggie’s former opera co-stars, the kindly Cissy (Pauline Collins) and the naughty Wilf (Billy Connolly), want to get the quartet back together to do their famous number from Rigoletto at the benefit concert.

Quartet is a charming film.  Dustin Hoffman’s debut as a director really pays off.  Each of the cast members is also perfect, comprised of both actors and former British musicians and opera singers.  Their lines and interactions with each other are hilarious, sweet, charming and, in Wilf’s case, cheeky.  Stay through the end credits for then and now shots of the cast.

The film also has beautiful music, comprising of both classical and occasional 1930s hits.  An opera vs rap and hip hop debate with a visiting high school class leads one student to argue his case through urban poetry.  I found this scene interesting, as it proves the validity of all art forms.  One could argue Quartet is a work of art, with beautifully framed shots of the English woods.

Quartet is a gentle film that anyone from teenagers to mature audiences can enjoy.


Quartet Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

Seniors, classical music and opera lovers, this one’s for you.  Quartet is a delightful and quiet comedy set in a British retirement home for aging musicians and singers.  The residents of Beecham House may be officially retired, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole lot of music and performing going on.

Everyone’s counting on the home’s annual fundraising gala concert to keep spirits up and finances stable for another year.  Leading the pack is flamboyantly dressed retired director, Cedric (Michael Gambon) who is determined to recreate the past and produce a show that will get critics talking.  When a legendary opera diva, Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) moves in, Cedric sees a golden opportunity.  The challenge will be to get Jean and her former Rigoletto quartet members to agree to a comeback performance.

The most difficult quartet member to convince is Reggie (Tom Courtenay), who shares a painful past with Jean.  Jean isn’t crazy about the idea of singing for an audience either.  Reggie’s best friend Wilf (Billy Connolly) is a shameless charmer and flirt who doesn’t worry about the past.  Wilf, along with the sweet and increasingly forgetful Cissy (Pauline Collins) work together to turn Jean and Reggie around and get the four singing together just like in the old days.

Quartet is Dustin Hoffman’s first effort as a director.  His many years as an actor are evident in his handling of this charming story.  There are so many funny and believable moments with the wonderful cast of aging actors.  Quartet feels like a celebration of these individuals whose talents and passions aren’t diminished by an aging mind or body.  Hoffman has captured beautifully the power of music to cross the barriers of age.  The music in the film is wonderful to watch and hear, especially if you enjoy classic music and opera.

Senior audiences in particular will find Quartet to be a real treat.  I loved it and I’m not even a senior yet.


Quartet Review by Tony

*** (out of 4)

The title Quartet refers to the ensemble in Rigoletto. Three singers from a celebrated recording of the opera are now living in a stately retirement home for opera musicians in the British countryside modelled on the home in Milan established by the composer Verdi. They are the serious tenor Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), randy baritone Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly) and forgetful alto Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins). The arrival of the brooding soprano Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) from the original quartet causes quite a stir in the home for many reasons.

Along with the principals, the Beecham home under the cheerful management of Dr. Cogan (Sheridan Smith) has a wonderful cast of characters. Cedric (Michael Gambon) is the bossy and snobbish director of the annual fundraising concert featuring a number of actual retired musicians, including Jean’s rival diva Anne Langley (Gwyneth Jones). On a personal note, I recall seeing Ms. Jones in my student days in the role of Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth in 1977.

The charm of Quartet is in no small way due to the fact that along with most of the cast, both the director (Dustin Hoffman) and writer of the original play and screenplay (Ronald Harwood) are in their 70s. In an interview on the CBC program Q, Hoffman claimed to be inspired by the snappy dialogue style of Howard Hawks, keeping the 98 minute film moving along with a rhythm appropriate to the musicians that are in it.


Consensus: Directed by Dustin Hoffman and carried by a good supporting cast led by Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins, Quartet is a charming and nicely written comedy about a group of retired opera singers.  *** (Out of 4)

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