We need a couple of feelgood films every year, and it is clear that Quartet is intended to be one of them. It has all you need except perhaps for Judi Dench. And maybe actors who are believable singers.
Had this film been about almost any former career than opera singing, I’d have bought it straightaway. Billy Connolly plays himself, more or less. Maggie Smith does too. Herself, not Mr Connolly. Pauline Collins is lovely and scatterbrained and Tom Courtenay charmingly restrained and gentlemanlike. But I don’t see retired opera singers in any of them.
The music is lovely and the singing – done by others – is fine. The setting is suitably English countryside and stately home for American viewers. The actors are a treat to watch and listen to. Michael Gambon looks wonderful in a dressing gown. The concept of a retirement home for ancient musicians is a fantastic one, albeit also rather unlikely.
But as in many films, these elderly dears are not so very elderly. Would they really be in a home? Wilf has a stick (walking kind) but moves in such a sprightly fashion I don’t reckon Billy Connolly knows what it means to really need a stick. As for Maggie Smith’s character needing a new hip…
The film would have been spot on had this been about truly old and normal inmates in a home. But that would have been less glamorous.
To me the great unknown here is the film’s director, Dustin Hoffman. I’m not sure he was able to squeeze enough out of the grand cast he assembled. They could all do so much more than simply walk – nimbly – around, being themselves. Although that is of course a lot of fun.
(I suspected the supporting actors were the real deal, and the credits told us who every single one of them used to be.)
There will be a Bafta preview of Quartet at Cornerhouse on Wednesday 12th December at 18.10, followed by Q & A with Tom Courtenay and Billy Connolly.