Thursday, March 14, 2013

Quartet (Rhoades)

Dustin Hoffman
Makes Beautiful
Music with “Quartet”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Dustin Hoffman is about as American as apple pie -- well, make that a matzoh meal apple cake. Although born in Los Angeles, his Ashkenazi  family immigrated to the US from the Ukraine and Romania.
As a young actor, he did Volkswagen commercials until his big breakthrough with “The Graduate.” Then he went on to star in such memorable films as “Midnight Cowboy,” “Papillion,” “All the President’s Men,” “Tootsie,” and “Rain Man.”
Hoffman’s not particularly known for being an Anglophile. Nor is he considered musical. So I was very surprised that his directing debut turned out to be a film based on a London West End play titled “Quartet,” a story about a retirement home for aging British musicians.
And he pulls it off as nimbly as you’d expect from a Ken Russell or a Richard Attenborough or a James Ivory.
This sweet little musical dramedy is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
In it, Reg (Tom Courtenay), Wilf (Billy Connolly), and Cissy (Pauline Collins) are retired opera singers living at Beecham House. Their comfortable routine is interrupted by the arrival of diva Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), once a big name in the opera world. Turns out, she had been married briefly to Reg. And when she’s asked to reunite with her former co-stars for a performance of “Rigoletto” at a charitable event designed to save the retirement home, temperaments flare, old injuries bubble to the surface, and life’s choices are re-examined.
My movie pal Steve Strickman emailed me to complain about “the negative reviews I read.” He continued, “I always thought that many movie reviewers (not you) are arrogant and wrong, and this confirmed it. This movie, with Maggie Smith, Sheridan Smith (both from ‘Downton Abbey’), Tom Courtenay and others, has wonderful music and is warm, pleasant and totally enjoyable -- especially for an old geezer like me!”
Sourpuss critics aside, this movie about over-the-hill opera singers offers up a set of older actor with whom we geezers can share our aches and pains, heartbreaks and recriminations, smiles and tears. Dustin Hoffman captures all of that here, proving he has a career path to rival Clint Eastwood’s but with a decidedly more genteel sensibility.
Four cheers for “Quartet.”

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