Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quartet (2012)

Directed by Dustin Hoffman
Starring: Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly, Sheridan Smith, Michael Gambon
Grade: C+ [56]

“Quartet”is also a film desperate for us to laugh at old people behaving less than appropriately to each other, the key difference being that – for at least the first half – it’s consistently hilarious, with Billy Connolly in particular flaunting the comic chops we've known he's had for decades now, and Dame Maggie doing what she so often does well, in perhaps as sullen, loaded and nonexclusively comedic a way as she has done for quite some time. Harwood manages to keep this story ticking along well for the first two acts, until M. Smith’s diva is required to vehemently defend her instincts, and then abandon them, in what feels like a really sloppily-conceived chain of events. We know where this is going early, but that doesn’t prevent the last act feeling like such a shoehorned retread of the film’s opening establishing jokes and celebration of old age as a precious, self-evaluating phase in life. There’s a touch of cloying sadness lumped in there, too, but the film has developed so much goodwill by then that it’s difficult to say that the wheels fall off entirely. On this evidence Hoffman is unsurprisingly an actors' director: this cast is having a ball, and they're resoundingly infectious.

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