After an illustrious acting career spanning over 50 years, Dustin Hoffman steps behind the camera for the very first time as he adapts Roland Harwood’s much loved play Quartet. With a cast filled with British acting royalty, does the American favourite have what it takes to make the difficult transition?
A retirement home for aging musicians could be seen as a place where talent gets sent out to pasture. But that’s definitely not the case at Beecham House, as the residents are still brimming with creativity, deep in rehearsals for their annual gala performance. The cheeky Wilf (Billy Connolly), stern Reggie (Tom Courtney) and ditzy Sissy (Pauline Collins) living out their time there in a peaceful bliss. Well, that’s until the once famous star – and Reggie’s ex-wife – Jean (Maggie Smith) arrives at the home. Emotions run high as the past rears its ugly head.
So quintessentially British, in both its sense of humour and demeanour, Quartet might seem like a surprising choice for Hoffman as his first outing as a director, but its pretty evident early on that he just gets it, smartly filling the screen with so many likeable personalities that it’s impossible not to enjoy the interactions between characters. Witty and charming, Harwood’s script (he adapted the play himself) seems to be the perfect material for the cast to play with. A massive draw is the simple fact that its wonderful to see these old stars having what looks like shed-loads of fun.
Filled with numerous memorably sweet and poignant moments dealing with an aging body that can no longer do what the mind commands, as well as an overarching theme of relevance not only to their craft but to actual life, it carries its weight – tugging at the tear ducts from time to time. Especially Pauline Collins, who is by far the shining light in the piece, with a lovingly fragile performance that you cling on to instantly.
It may not be anything special, or even that great of a directorial debut for Hoffman, but Quartet is a perfectly warm and excellently acted British comedy that has the sweetness it needs to succeed in what it attempts to do.