Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet premieres in London
This year’s chosen film to support the Musicians Benevolent Fund is Quartet, the directorial debut from Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman. With a screenplay by another Oscar winner Sir Ronald Harwood (The Pianist), and starring actors like Olivier Award-winning Sheridan Smith (Legally Blonde, The Musical) and four-time BAFTA winner Michael Gambon (Harry Potter), Quartet is a real showcase of talent.
Set within the magnificent Beecham House and its surrounding grounds, Quartet is a heart-warming story over-flowing with retired opera singers and old instrumentalists. Centred around two lifelong friends, Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Reggie (Tom Courtenay), along with their former colleague, the ever-more-forgetful Cissy (Pauline Collins), the story unfolds within this retirement home for elderly musicians. Annually, on Verdi’s birthday, a concert to raise funds for Beecham House is organised by the residents; a chance to once again shine on stage.
With Cedric (Gambon) managing and directing proceedings, the concert doesn’t quite seem to be as big a hit as it used to be. That all changes, however, when Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) arrives: a former grande dame of the opera, who arrives to a rapturous applause from her new house-mates, most of whom know her from their old social circles, one of whom married her…
Comedy ensues with haughty Horton’s arrival, but with the interlacing of some slightly more emotional notes. The beautiful story of friendship keeps the film tuneful, and the chosen cast fit their roles wonderfully. Wilf is an unrelenting flirt, his being loose of tongue that he blames on a stroke, but leaves him refreshing and honest. His best friend Reggie is the opposite of Wilf: sensible and dignified. These two characters in particular give the film its charm, with a supporting cast including David Peacock (“Jim Trott” from the Vicar of Dibley), David Ryall (“Grandad” from Outnumbered) and a whole host of musicians.
At the gala screening for Quartet, The Upcoming was told how Dustin Hoffman’s being chosen to direct the film was like a “strange aligning of the stars”. Producer Finola Dwyer told how she and Hoffman had been introduced through mutual friends and how Maggie Smith had said: “It has taken us all these years to find a director who knows what it is like to act in a film.”
Sheridan Smith described working with the mature actors as like “acting with royalty”, and she said: “I felt honoured – I wanted to curtsy to everyone every morning!” Smith said how they had all “took me under their wing” which among stars like those in Quartet would be a privilege to anyone!
Although this film will probably not appeal to the younger generation, the humour should not be underestimated. Quartet is the ultimate definition of heart-warming and on these cold, winter days, any warming is good warming! As quoted in the film: “Old age isn’t for sissies!” and neither is this film.
Quartet is released nationwide on 1st January 2013.
Watch the trailer for Quartet here: