Quartet is the official debut of Dustin Hoffman as a movie director. He is part of the group that has the same effect on its generation of actors the same way Marlon Brando and James Dean had on theirs. But even with his skillful touch and cast made of all-stars can’t save this comedy based on a play by Ronald Harwood.
Quartet is about people in a retirement home. The good thing about it is that Harwood didn’t have to resort to someone dying in order to make a dramatic point. It is set in a rural British facility called Beecham House. It is a home for retired musicians and most of them are classical instrumentalists. There are also some former opera singers.
Every year they have Verdi’s birthday fundraiser. During this event, they get to showcase their talents for a paying audience. It goes to show that there’s still artistic life even after retirement. The fundraising this year is an important one because of the rumored budget deficit. The funds raised through the event will be vital for the home’s finances. Good thing the home has a new attraction in the person of recently retired opera diva Jean Horton (Maggie Smith). She is about to move into the home and she can help attract people to the annual fundraiser.
The residents of Beecham House are excited about the new arrival. Some of them have worked with the diva in the past. One person who is not eager to see her is Reggie (Tom Courtenay), who was married to her before. She betrayed him and sent him into a romantic tailspin.
Most of Quartet involves the friction between Reggie and Jean as well as the increasingly fleeting grip on reality by the ditsy Cecily. The movie is clichéd. Harwood’s use of dementia for dramatic effect is also not done right. It is heavy on the sentiment side and light on the comedy.