After years of acting and two Oscars under his belt, Dustin Hoffman finally takes a turn behind the camera in his directorial debut for Quartet.
Based on Ronald Harwood’s play of the same name, the film takes place at Beecham House, a home where retired opera singers Cissy (Pauline Collins), Reginald (Tom Courtenay) and Wilf (Billy Connolly) live. Formally part of a quartet, every year the three take part in a concert to celebrate composer Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday. But when Jean (Maggie Smith), the fourth member of their group arrives at the seniors’ home, things get complicated. As she is the ex-wife of fellow member Reginald, old rivalries, theatrical temperaments and drama evidently ensues and it becomes unclear whether or not the show will go on.
While the film never gets any more drastic than this, it is delightfully charming to see veteran actors Smith, Courtenay, Connolly and Collins strut their stuff. With Smith perfectly playing the slightly narcissistic queen bee of the group, even Michael Gambon makes an appearance as the eccentric lead coordinator of the concert. But as we see Courtenay’s Reggie harbour old feelings for his ex-wife and Collins play the lovable confidante Cissy, it’s Connolly who steals the show as the hilariously lustful Wilf.
Although there isn’t much material to let the actors stretch their acting capabilities, Quartet is a pleasure to watch. Although it pokes fun at old age and shows the fears of becoming a has-been, it’s the performances by the film’s legendary actors that make Hoffman’s endearing tale what it is.
Footage from the premiere’s Q&A
In this video, Dame Maggie Smith talked about her experience working with Dustin Hoffman.
First-time director Dustin Hoffman talks about his experience working on the film and what he learned during the process.