Directed By: Dustin Hoffman

Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, and Sheridan Smith

"Old age is for sissies."
-Cecily "Cissy" Robson (Pauline Collins)

It's no secret that we have an aging population in the US.  The baby boomers are dragging our population into old age.  Consequently, we're starting to see more and more movies about the elderly at the box office.  In the last year, we've had films such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Amour, and Hope Springs.  I have to respect it.  If the demand exists, Hollywood should produce it.  Now, we have Quartet, a charming little comedy honoring the stage legends of yesteryear.  It's directed by screen legend Dustin Hoffman.

At the Beecham House, a home for retired musicians, Giuseppe Verdi's birthday marks a special time of year.  In honor of the legendary composer's birthday, the residents of the Beecham House throw an annual gala at which they all perform.  Featuring prominent stage performers of the past, the gala is a charitable event that helps raise money for the retirement home.  This year things are a little different though.  Beecham House is going broke, and this gala will determine whether it remains open.

Cissy Robson (Collins), Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly), and Reg Paget (Tom Courtenay) are former members of a famous operatic quartet and longtime residents of the Beecham House.  When Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), the fourth member of the quartet and Reg's ex-wife, arrives at the retirement home, opportunity knocks.  With Jean now there, Cedric Livingstone (Michael Gambon), the director of the gala, has a brilliant idea.  He would like for the quartet to reunite and perform Verdi's "Rigoletto" at the gala.  For this show to happen however, these four singers are going to have to put aside decades-old personal issues, longtime rivalries, and natural anxieties.

Quartet is a charming little film and a quirky directorial debut for Dustin Hoffman.  The acting legend shows us that he indeed has some skills behind the camera as well.  You can see it in the strong camera work as Hoffman knows how to put every scene together in exactly the right way.  You can hear it in the bright musical selections performed live on set by these veteran stage performers.  You can feel it in the bouncy upbeat rhythmicity of the movie.  With his eye for the camera, a host of colorful personalities, and some delightful operatic tunes, Hoffman is able to turn Quartet into a charming little crowd-pleaser.

This musical comedy-drama has no shortage of vibrant personalities.  Hoffman told his cast to just be themselves.  Apparently, they're all just naturally funny people.  Dame Maggie Smith lights up the big screen as usual with her trademark wit and diva-like tendencies.  Smith takes command of the screen every time she steps on camera.  Billy Connolly consistently brings the laughs as charming playboy Wilf Bond.  With his vintage wine and seasoned wood, this old man never stops flirting or delivering comic relief.  As Cissy Robson, Pauline Collins brings a bubbly, effervescent energy to the film and delightfully proves that old age is really for Cissies.  As Reg Paget, a lover scorned, Tom Courtenay gives us the normal, sensible character of the bunch.  Finally, we have Michael Gambon delivering a cranky, egotistical perfectionist in Cedric Livingstone.  He's the perfect director and one funny guy.

My only quip with Quartet is that it's basically The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Britain with music.  We've got a bunch of old British actors portraying characters living together in a retirement home for financial reasons.  The cash-strapped retirement home is on the verge of being closed.  Maggie Smith's character even needs a hip replacement and once again makes sure that everybody knows it.  This is all too familiar.  For the most part, Quartet is a musical version of Marigold with a set change and some new cast members.  While I respect the film's effort to honor Britain's strong heritage in the arts, Quartet needs to be something fresh, something more original.

Though this issue certainly takes away from the film, Quartet is still a fun romp.  Maggie Smith's diva performance and Billy Connolly's playboy character are enough to make up for this.  There are also plenty of good stage tunes.  Quartet gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Chardonnay with this one.