Friday, January 25, 2013
Dustin Hoffman is making his directorial debut at the age of 75 with “Quartet” written by Ronald Harwood based on his play and also has “The Dresser” and “The Pianist” to his credits. Hoffman at 76 and Harwood at 79 know what they are dealing when it comes to being old and both have an obvious love for actors and larger than life personalities.
Hoffman doesn’t make any major mistakes at his maiden effort but does make beginning director mistakes like having two too many ‘artistic scenery’ shots though he certainly has the scenery, with the film shot in and around Hedsor House & park in Taplow, England. The house is used as Beecham House for retired singers and musicians mainly from the world of classical music. It just doesn’t ring true that the magnificent house and grounds can be saved for another year financially by a concert given for a small group of people.
Can the House be saved? Will Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), once the darling of the opera houses who has given up singing, sing with Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly) and Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins) the act 3 quartet from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” that once brought the opera world to their feet with Reginald getting 9 curtain calls and, as Jean reminds him, she got 12 curtain calls? Will Reginald and Jean who were briefly married many years ago rekindle their love? Will Wilf, with the ever present twinkle in his eye, and Cissy, with her addled brain, make you smile all through the picture? If you don’t know the answers to these questions you don’t know movies or the world of make believe.
Ronald Harwood, in his screenplay, hits all the ‘old people’ cliches while Dustin Hoffman lets the professional oldsters/actors do their thing without many, if any, challenges to what they could have brought to a deeper story. It’s hard to say what audience Hoffman wants to attract, maybe hoping for the crowds that went to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” or watch “Downton Abbey” but this movie won’t last long in theatres and probably would have done better as a PBS Masterpiece showing even with a five minute scene discussing the difference between opera, rap and hip-hop--which doesn’t go amywhere.
Do stay for the credits when Hoffman shows the veterans of the opera and classical music field who are in the picture side by side with photos when they were on stage in their youth.