Saturday, February 2, 2013

Quartet [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (2 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Roger Ebert's review

Quartet (directed by Dustin Hoffman, original play and adapted screenplay by Ronald Harwood) is a lovely arguably too idyllic story about growing old, retirement and coming to terms with it all.  I say the story may grate some folks as being "too idyllic" because it is centered around the life at "Beecham House" a retirement community  "somewhere in England" for former operatic singers and classical musicians.  As such, this is not exactly the average "senior community," much less a nursing home that the vast majority of Americans would understand (and often honestly and with some reason fear...).

That being said, the story is a reminder that economics aside, coming to terms with "growing old," fixing what relationships need to be fixed, etc is still not easy.  And perhaps with economic questions largely set-aside in this film (though central to the story is actually the "plot device" of the residents having to perform an annual "benefit concert" to help pay for the continued operation of their lovely retirement home) the more universal concerns of "grief" / "loss" and reconciliation can come to fore.

Central to the story is the attempt to bring back together for said benefit concert the four operatic singers, all now retired and -- with the arrival last, Jean Horton (played by Maggie Smith) -- all now living at Beecham House, for a reprise of their famed performance/recording of the Rigoletto Quartet (YouTube) by GiuseppeVerdi.  This, of course proves "not particularly easy," as there are egos and past hurts that need to be overcome.  Reginald Paget (played by Tom Courtenay) had been briefly married to Jean when they were young and their marriage collapsed after Jean confessed to cheating on him (once) while she (apparently always a bit more successful than he) had been singing for a season at "La Scala" in Rome.  Reginald also has seemed to have a tougher time of retirement than former colleague Wilf Bond (played by Billy Connolly) who enjoys happily flirting young women in his old age in contrast to Reginald's (remember, he had been hurt by someone cheating with his wife ...) wounded rigidity on the matter.  Still Reginald has tried to "keep himself young" in another way: by engaging the contemporary generation of young musicians and keeping up with their styles and times (Operatic singer though he was, he seemed quite happy to engage and applaud the ability of a young rapper he encounters during a music theory/history class that Reginald continues to offer in his retirement).  Finally, there is the good-hearted Cissy Robson (played by Pauline Collins) who has remembered the four's long-ago recording of the Rigoletto Quartet as one of the high points of her life, and apparently not just from a "career" point of view, but simply that their previous time working together had brought her great joy. 

Much of course needs to be fixed/reconciled as the story progresses ... but it makes then for a very, very nice story such coming to terms with the Past, the Present and even what awaits in the Future.  So it all does make for a very lovely story offering everyone much to reflect on as one considers these questions in the context of his/her life as well. 

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