Dustin Hoffman's initial foray behind the camera allows for some droll, romantic strokes to make an aria-accented drama with its occasional terse line-readings excel.
Quartet will most easily be embraced by those drawn into last year's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and features one of its stars, Maggie Smith, as well as other varied, quite accomplished character thespians like Michel Gambon, Billy Connolly, and Pauline Collins.
The lovely estate of Beecham House for retired musicians has its annual gala performance altered a bit once famed soprano Jean (Smith) arrives. A titular group comes together thanks to its showman director (Gambon) wanting to realize the magic of Verdi's "Rigoletto" again. Connolly's forward Wilf and Collins' fickle Cissy are game for a reunion. However, Reggie (Tom Courtenay) has a bit of a troubled past with Jean having once been married to her for a short time. Maybe harder than getting these two relatively comfortable with each other is getting Jean comfortable to shine again on stage.
Ronald Harwood's sensible scripting is sensitive to the understanding and obstinacy that comes with age. Even with the onset of dementia for Cissy, health and somberness isn't that big of an issue. A sunny vivacity primarily graces these over 65 folks, matching the lush vistas of the British countryside.
The affection of the cast to their roles signifies Hoffman's fairly understated, light touch to let Smith and Courtenay provide the deepest emotion to their wounded characters. Gambon evinces some humorously bossy moments while Connelly ignites innuendo through Wilf. Collins turns out to be an illuminating presence as is Sheridan Smith as the serving home physician Dr. Lucy Cogan.
The filmmaking and storyline is committed to the passage of time with little edginess or complexities but still able to offer its own revelations without feeling overly contrived. Though along in years, the characters and actors of Quartet are an obvious, if effective instrument for remaining young at heart (with "the show must go on" elan as in the Rooney/Garland musicals), just about perfectly easing into their twilight. At least for one character resonating through its tagline, "every diva must have an encore."