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Paul Andrew Williams
Cecily, Reggie, and Wilfred are in a home for retired musicians. Every year, on October 10, there is a concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday and they take part. Jean, who used to be married to Reggie, arrives at the home and disrupts their equilibrium. She still acts like a diva, but she refuses to sing. Still, the show must go on... and it does. Written by
"Quartet" is the filmization of Ronald Harwood's 1999 play with the screenplay by the author. The story is set in a retirement home for musicians named for Sir Thomas Beecham. Plans are underway for the annual concert fundraiser to coincide with Verdi's birthday. Heading the gala committee is Cedric played by Michael Gambon. Kudos to Mr. Gambon for rocking the caftan like no one since George Zucco in "Tarzan and the Mermaids". One of Cedric's committee members is soprano Cissy played by the delightful Pauline Collins. Cissy is a "getting worse" in that her memory is failing. Her old stage partner Wilfred is the resident naughty man of the home played by Billy Connolly in his familiar raucous way. Wilfred delights in flirting outrageously with all the women and needling Cedric. The more sedate Reg played by Tom Courtenay came to the home to check on Wilf who had been admitted after a slight stroke. Here Reg found his niche in caring for his friends and holding classes for young people.
Into this garden spot comes a new resident, a noted opera star played by Maggie Smith. Jean is known to all and her appearance is less than appreciated by her former husband Reg. Her arrival shakes up his whole existence. There is also another "star" in residence brilliantly cast with Dame Gweneth Jones. The dagger-like looks that flash between the two divas, when the term meant more than demanding behavior, is worth the price of admission.
Jean's adjustment to the retirement home and a crisis with the annual gala are the concerns of the present. Reg's torment over the presence of his lost love makes old wounds fresh. Life is definitely not retiring in this home because, as Cissy is fond of quoting Bette Davis' remark, "old age is not for sissies".
Director Hoffman gives us many quiet moments to observe the entire ensemble as life swirls around the preparations for the all-important concert. We get to know the patient piano teacher/accompanist, the old song and dance men, the lifelong choristers, the pit musicians and the staff of the home, along with our "quartet". I laughed, I cried, I laughed again, and I cared. Highly recommended.
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