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Quartet

What She said:

She

I’m sure you’ve all wondered what happens when world-class musicians get old.  Wait, you’ve never considered that?  Well, in Quartet, whether you want to know or not, you’re presented with this interesting scenario.  And what you learn is that these aging talents have a tendency to be catty, confused, and yes, very umm, sex-driven. 

Quartet tells the story of Beecham House, a community for aged musicians.  Some of these people have their wits about them, others are a little foggy, and still others are in very complete failing health.  But most of them still love to perform to the best of their abilities—whether it’s singing opera, playing piano, or tearing it up on the trumpet.  And I have to say, many of them are quite good, despite their age.  But Beecham House is in peril.  There’s talk of it possibly shutting down within six months if the annual fundraiser/gala concert doesn’t produce much needed funding. 

Quartet

In the meantime, a new resident has arrived, a true star amongst the stars, Jean Horton.  She was apparently quite the singer in her day.  She’s reunited with three of her former colleagues, including a man she used to be married to, Reggie Paget.  Things between Jean and Reggie don’t go so well initially. He’s bothered by the mere thought of them sharing accommodations, and has no problem in showing it.  But Jean is ready to let bygones be bygones and she slowly begins chipping away at Reggie’s rocky exterior.  While Jean and Reggie work on their relationship, Wilfred Bond and Cecily Robson work to bring the four of them back together for a performance at the gala.  Jean is not on board, as she believes her days of singing are over, and so Cissy and crew have toil to try to persuade her.  But not to worry, everything comes together in a spectacular way for the gala.

And I’ve basically told you everything you’ll ever need to know about this story.  There’s actually not too much to it.  The movie really is about the relationships these people have, with one another and with themselves.  Jean struggles with the idea of aging out of her talent.  Reggie deals with his failed friendship and marriage to Jean.  And even though everyone often seems chipper and upbeat, you cannot help to feel an ominous cloud over Beecham House, as we know that any day could possibly be these people’s last.  It’s sobering, and we’re carefully reminded of this several times.

For some, Quartet will feel boring or too slow, but it’s really about the subtle messaging and the character development.  Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connelly, and Pauline Collins all bring life and spirit to their characters.  I would also like to go on record as saying that I want to retire to place so spectacular.  The grounds of the facility are simply breathtaking.  I cannot imagine how anyone could be unhappy there, except by knowing that the next time you leave the place is likely to be in a hearse.  The movie has good humor throughout, and some of it is actually quite wicked.  Predictable as it may have been, I found the movie to be enjoyable and harmless.

Thumbs mostly up.

Quartet

 

What He said:

He

It’s not uncommon for elderly folk to go into a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or whatever you want to call them when they reach a certain point in life. Sometimes we just need a little extra help as our minds and bodies slow down. Nobody can beat the clock. It doesn’t matter who you are. Celebrity or not, it eventually happens to us all.

So, it should come as no surprise that even world-famous classical musicians end up in the same types of places. They are, of course, in much nice types of places than the average Joe. The Beecham House is a retirement home for opera singers and other classical musicians. It looks like a mix between those really nice rooms in your grandparents’ house which you aren’t supposed to touch anything and an upscale bed and breakfast.  
In addition to being extremely nice, the other difference from the everyday nursing home is that the residents are all talented musicians who take part in some kind of musical activity in one way or another. One of the things the residents of Beecham do is put on a yearly gala for friends, family, and local community members. This year’s gala is extremely important, because the proceeds will go directly towards supporting Beecham House. You see, it is in danger of closing.

Quartet

The residents themselves are quite the cast of characters. Michael Gambon plays Cedric Livingston. He is a former director and despite not having an active role in any of the acts of the show, he thinks it is all about him. He is the kind of person who invests every bit of energy into the task at hand, is a little too invested, and has a huge ego. Gambon was really good as this temperamental, but entertaining character. Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, and Pauline Collins are Reg, Wilf, and Cissy respectively. Reg is very dry and serious, but pleasant guy. He is very low key and has gotten used to life at Beecham. Wilf has never really gotten used to being an old person. Everyone knows someone like Wilf. He’s one of those old guys who is telling a dirty joke and still acting like he’s a young stud. Connolly was absolutely hilarious in this movie. He had some great lines. Pauline Collins was also quite amusing as the forgetful, but well-meaning Cissy. She was a very endearing and likeable person.

Everything changes when new resident Jean Horton arrives. Despite trying to keep to herself, Jean (Maggie Smith) causes a stir in a way that really only Maggie Smith can. She’s excellent as usual.

This is a light and charming little comedy/drama that is definitely worth the watch if you are looking for something simple, but entertaining.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on August 3, 2013.

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