"Quartet" tells the story of aging operatic singer Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) who, while battling the end of her career, moves to "Beecham House" -- a retirement home for musicians.
There, she reunites with three other singers: Reggie (Courtenay), Wilf (Connolly), and Sissy (Collins). While at the height of their careers all four were praised for their rendition of "Bella Figlia Dell’Amore" ("Beautiful Daughter of Love") from Guiseppi Verdi’s "Rigoletto." Jean has a past with all of them, but her strongest history lies with Reggie. Once married, Jean shattered his world with her infidelity.
Beecham House faces possible closure. When one of their star performers takes ill, the group’s director Cedric (Michael Gambon) devises to reunite the quartet for their annual fundraising gala, possibly saving the home from closure. Jean is faced with the challenge of reigniting her career while conquering the obstacles of her past mistakes.
Smith delivers a stellar performance. Stern while sensitive, she’s captivating to watch and brilliantly portrays the fallen prima donna, struggling with where life has taken her. Connolly, the film’s "Buffo," is charming and sexually zealous, proving that lust and romance doesn’t end in his later years. Handsome and still-in-love Tom Courtenay delivers a moving performance, and Pauline Collins’ sweet and ingenuous portrayal of Sissy, a contralto battling dementia, deserves a special standing ovation.
Even with such a strong ensemble, the true star of this film stands behind the camera. For the first time in his forty-six year film career, now-director Dustin Hoffman brilliantly orchestrates "Quartet" with all the experience of a great maestro, wonderfully layering his Verisimo with all the emotional dynamics that one might find while sitting in the audience of Teatro alla Scala. "Quartet"’s cast praise Hoffman for his constant actor-approach to each scene’s actions. It shows in Hoffman’s execution and sense of humor. The Blu-ray’s extras include cast interviews as well as a commentary by Hoffman.
Hoffman is wise to use actual senior groundbreaking opera singers and musicians who reached acclaim from years back. Adding a Brava-worthy Bel Canto twist to the story, Opera star Dame Gwyneth Jones adds to the supporting cast’s performances as much of the film’s actual soundtrack. Smart choice.
Now on Blu-ray, "Quartet" proves that music is the bond for love. Quartet crosses the boundaries of ages, and it will entertain and delight both the young and old. To quote Bette Davis (quoted in "Quartet") "Old age is not for sissies."