Musical treat from British veteran cast

ENDEARING: From left, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Maggie Smith star in <I>Quartet.</I>
ENDEARING: From left, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Maggie Smith star in <I>Quartet.</I>

M, 1hr 50min
Reviewed by Peter Lampp.

Cinema-goers getting long in the tooth could do worse than take in this endearing British comedy drama.

Loaded with a veteran British cast and surprisingly directed by American Dustin Hoffman in his debut aged 75, it is set in something called a home for retired musicians.

Gossip and intrigue pervade Beecham House, as you would expect from the ultra oldies, and especially between so many former stars of the stage and opera.

Based on a West End play of the same name, the oldies annually put on a gala concert - to celebrate Guiseppe Verdi's birthday - and this one is to raise funds to keep the plush place open. But, borrowing a saying from Bette Davis, "getting old isn't for sissies".

Three of them are former members of a quartet and the arrival of the fourth, starchy former star soloist Jean Horton, opens old wounds.

Horton is played by Maggie Smith, a dame no less, and she can play grumpy and haughty to a tee. She starred in another Quartet movie in 1981, but it bore no relation to this one.

Billy Connolly was my favourite. As Wilf on his stick, he almost played himself; no shortage of grubbiness (widdling on trees in the house grounds) and naughty sexual innuendo with anything female, including the young house doctor.

We were cleverly spared Billy's vocals, unlike Russell Crowe's in Les Miserables.

Michael Gambon (Cedric) plays a wonderfully eccentric self-appointed musical bully, Pauline Collins is silly Cissy, while Reggie (Tom Courtenay) wants to live out his life happily.

If all such retirement complexes around Manawatu were like the exquisitely leafy Beecham House, there would be queues waiting to book a room.

The music and singing are another plus, even with genuine geriatric sopranos and tenors in the support cast belting out Happy Birthday To You. And all of them singing Verdi's Brindisi from La Traviata.

No wonder many local folk have seen Quartet twice.

Manawatu Standard