Maggie Smith Does Not Save the Day

Main Cast: Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly

Director: Dustin Hoffman

I expect great things from Maggie Smith, and rightfully so – she’s a delightful addition to everything she’s in.  But even she, with her Hogwartsian magical acting powers, could not save Quartet.

The Story

Smith stars as aging opera diva Jean Horton.  She arrives at Beecham House, a sort of assisted living facility for retired musicians, and finds an established community of musical folks including a long-past ex-husband (Reg, played by Tom Courtenay).  Reg and his pals Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Cissy (Pauline Collins) hope to convince Jean to perform at the house’s annual festival, reprising a famous quartet from their heyday.  Meanwhile we learn about their infirmities (memory loss, post-stroke, bad hip) and meet the eccentric denizens of Beecham House.

The Verdict

Holy God, this thing is boring.  Directed by Dustin Hoffman, Quartet needs to come with a warning label that you need a deep interest in both

Dustin Hoffman by Georges Biard

Seriously, Dustin Hoffman?

opera and aging English opera stars to even begin to enjoy it.  The characters are mildly amusing once in a while, though more often obstinate and annoying – Billy Connolly especially as he uses his stroke to indulge in inappropriate behavior. He’s supposed to be witty and charming.  He isn’t.

The “love story” between Jean and Reg – dredging up past hurts and slowly, slowly, slowly filling in the blanks as to the actual sequence of events – feels contrived and not the littlest bit real (or interesting).  Only Collins as Cissy gets some meat with her role – she’s the one losing her memory and her scenes are quite poignant.

There is just nothing other than Maggie Smith here to interest me, even a little.  The whole exercise is tedious and dull, or when the pace momentarily picks up, annoying and vapid.  If you’re really, really, really into opera, maybe this would interest you.  For everyone else, just avoid it completely.  One star out of 5.

photo by Georges Biard

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