You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


An ebullient encore not only for its central foursome, but also for the distinguished musicians who comprise the rest of the ensemble, Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut shows retirement hasn't diluted the drama one bit at a rest home for old stage-folk.

Jean Horton - Maggie Smith
Reggie Paget - Tom Courtenay
Wilf Bond - Billy Connolly
Cissy Robson - Pauline Collins
Cedric Livingston - Michael Gambon
Dr. Lucy Cogan - Sheridan Smith
Bobby Swanson - Andrew Sachs
Anne Langley - Gwyneth Jones

An ebullient encore not only for its central foursome — Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly and Maggie Smith — but also for the distinguished musicians who comprise the rest of the ensemble, “Quartet” shows retirement hasn’t diluted the drama one bit at a rest home for old stage-folk. Though never the sort of actor who “really wanted to direct,” Dustin Hoffman picked the right piece of material with which to make the leap, adapting Ronald Harwood’s 1999 play with the sort of thesp-friendly generosity that makes the performances really sing, assuring yet another hit among the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” crowd.

Aimed squarely at auds seasoned enough to remember Smith and Michael Gambon’s pre-“Harry Potter” career highs — namely, those aware that Smith made another “Quartet” for Merchant Ivory 30 years ago — this production celebrates the vitality of those whose time in the spotlight has passed, casting a handful of legends who are still going strong in their eighth decades. Old flames are rekindled when once-massively popular opera star Jean Horton (Smith), arrives at Beecham House, where ex-husband Reginald (Courtenay) had hoped to find “a dignified senility.”

Though Jean’s arrival excites the other residents — apart from a Norma Desmond-like longtime rival (Gwyneth Jones) — it reopens deep wounds for Reginald, cuckolded a mere nine hours after his wedding. The specter of that betrayal haunts their reunion, though Smith and Courtenay are such gifted thesps, the damage and remorse they each feel emanates even when the characters are apart, tempered on both sides by seemingly unyielding walls of pride.

The film’s scant plot plays second fiddle to Hoffman and Harwood’s nuanced exploration of love so long unrequited, as evidenced by the fact it takes more than an hour of screen time for the Beecham regulars to convince Jean to join them in an annual fundraising concert. Their plan hinges on Jean reuniting with Reginald, Cissy (Collins, amiably dotty) and Wilf (Connolly) to perform Verdi’s “Rigoletto” together once more. But there’s more than squandered romance at stake in Jean’s decision. The star soloist is fully aware that her prime has past and would prefer to be remembered for the voice she once had — a voice she sometimes revisits by listening to vinyl recordings of past triumphs in the privacy of her room.

In this respect, “Quartet” is attuned to the way that performers cope with the return to obscurity that so often awaits at the end of their careers. The seed of Harwood’s play sprang from this notion, inspired by the documentary “Tosca’s Kiss,” which collects the memories of former opera singers living out their days in a dedicated retreat Verdi himself established more than a century ago.

This crowd-pleasing adaptation assembles a comparably starry ensemble, whose accomplishments are recounted via an end-credits slideshow.

Reminiscent of “Gosford Park” in that there always seems to be something going in the adjoining room or just beyond the edges of the frame, “Quartet” convincingly transforms Hedsor House in Taplow, England, into a bustling anthill of geriatric activity.

With an assist from Dario Marianelli’s effusive score, Scottish comic Connolly supplies much of the pic’s charisma, playing a singer whose recent stroke has eliminated the last of his inhibitions. Just saucy enough to delight the target aud without crossing the line, the outspoken Wilf offers a running commentary throughout, antagonizing the other residents when he’s not shamelessly flirting with the head doctor (Sheridan Smith).

Between Jean and Reginald’s long-simmering feelings and Wilf’s colorful antics, “Quartet” offers a spirited portrait of souls who, when that final curtain-call comes, intend to go singing, dancing and swearing into that good night.



Production: A Weinstein Co. (in U.S.) release of a BBC Films, DCM Prods. presentation of a Headline Pictures, Finola Dwyer Prods. production in association with Decca and HanWay Films. (International sales: Hanway Films, London.) Produced by Dwyer, Stewart Mackinnon. Executive producers, Jamie Laurenson, Dario Suter, Christoph Daniel, Marc Schmidheiny, Dickon Stainer, Xavier Marchand, Dustin Hoffman. Directed by Dustin Hoffman. Screenplay, Ronald Harwood, based on his play.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), John de Borman; editor, Barney Pilling; music, Dario Marianelli; music supervisor, Kle Savidge; production designer, Andrew McAlpine; art director, Ben Smith; set decorator, Sarah Wittle; costume designer, Odile Dicks-Mireaux; sound (Dolby Digital), Martin Trevis; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Glenn Freemantle; re-recording mixers, Ian Tapp, Niv Adiri; line producer, Nick O'Hagan; associate producers, Mark Shivas, Amanda Posey, Christian Baute; assistant director, Matthew Penry-Davey; casting, Lucy Bevan. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 9, 2012. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Jean Horton - Maggie Smith
Reggie Paget - Tom Courtenay
Wilf Bond - Billy Connolly
Cissy Robson - Pauline Collins
Cedric Livingston - Michael Gambon
Dr. Lucy Cogan - Sheridan Smith
Bobby Swanson - Andrew Sachs
Anne Langley - Gwyneth JonesWith: Trevor Peacock, David Ryall, Michael Byrne, Ronnie Fox, Patricia Loveland, Eline Powell, Luke Newberry, Shola Adewusi, Jumayn Hunter, Aleksandra Duczmal, Denis Khoroshko, Sarah Crowden, Colin Bradbury, Patricia Varley, Ronnie Hughes, Jack Honeyborne, John Rawnsley, Nuala Willis, Melodie Waddingham, Cynthia Morey, John Heley, Graeme Scott, John Georgiadis, Ita Herbert, Ania Duczmal.

More Film

  • Jermaine Fowler arrives at the 69th

    Jermaine Fowler Joins 'Coming 2 America' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jermaine Fowler is joining Eddie Murphy in Paramount’s sequel “Coming 2 America,” sources tell Variety. “Hustle & Flow” helmer Craig Brewer is on board to direct the pic with the studio planning an August 7, 2020 release. Plot details of “Coming 2 America” are unknown, as are the details of Fowler’s character. Kenya Barris, who [...]

  • Henry Golding attends the Fragrance Foundation

    Henry Golding Starts Long House Shingle With 'Inheritance,' 'Harrington's Greatest Hits'

    “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding has started Long House Productions in partnership with China’s Starlight Cultural Entertainment Group with two features in the works. Golding’s first feature under the Long House banner is action adventure “The Inheritance,” based on an original story idea by Alistair Hudson and Golding. Hudson is writing the script for [...]

  • Max Landis Entertainment Weekly party, Comic-Con

    Max Landis Accused of Rape, Assault and Psychological Abuse

    Screenwriter Max Landis is facing allegations of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation from eight women who told their stories to the Daily Beast. Two of the women spoke on the record, and another five were identified by pseudonyms. An eighth women confirmed that she filed a police complaint against Landis in 2008, in which she [...]

  • Michael Fassbender'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' film premiere,

    Michael Fassbender to Produce, Star in Lionsgate Spy Thriller 'Malko'

    Michael Fassbender will produce and star in the Lionsgate spy thriller “Malko,” based on Gerard de Villiers’ S.A.S. series, with the studio planning to launch a franchise with the project. Eric Warren Singer, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay for “American Hustle,” will write the screenplay. Joe Drake, chairman of [...]

  • American Film Institute Hires Susan Ruskin

    Susan Ruskin Appointed AFI Conservatory Dean

    The American Film Institute has named producer and educator Susan Ruskin as dean of the AFI Conservatory, where she will lead AFI’s graduate film-training program. Ruskin, who will also carry the title of executive VP, will report directly to Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO, the organization announced Tuesday. She replaces producer Richard Gladstein, who left [...]

  • shanghai skyline China Placeholder

    Shanghai: Er Dong Pictures Adds to Web of Hollywood and Chinese Deals

    Chinese production and talent company Er Dong Pictures shed some light on its latest film investment slate and growing web of relationships in Asia and Hollywood. The company, which is in the process of establishing a joint venture with Hollywood talent firm The Gersh Agency, and has a 12-film co-funding deal with Starlight Culture Entertainment, [...]

  • Tony Hale Forky Toy Story 4

    'Toy Story 4': Tony Hale on the Joys of Voicing a Plastic Spork Named Forky

    The lastest plastic hero to join the “Toy Story” franchise is Forky, a disposable spork who has some serious qualms about being a toy. He comes to life in “Toy Story 4” alongside Woody and Buzz Lightyear, who teach him that he’s much more than trash. Tony Hale, the actor best known to audiences as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content