Saturday, March 23, 2013


When I was a kid, Saturday afternoons often meant the movies, which in those days would be two movies, before which there would be cartoons and a newsreel. A great way for kids to spend a rainy Saturday. I still like going to the movies on a Saturday and coming out with daylight still around. And I got to do that today with two friends, only these days it's just one movie preceded by a few "trailers"—what as a kid we called "Coming Attractions"—and unfortunately with those preceded by commercials, another sign we live in "The Corporate States of America" now.

But unlike when I was a kid, I got to go have a great meal in a great local restaurant with my friends after the flick and come home in the dark to write this post on the movie we saw: QUARTET. As I said to my friends, I have never seen a second of film footage that included Maggie Smith where she wasn't perfection as an actor. That still holds true. And she's joined by an amazing cast of aging performers playing aging opera singers and classical musicians and music hall performers to perfection.

This movie should be seen by any film buff simply because it's the first one Dustin Hoffman has directed. Another aging performer. As we could expect, he does a terrific job, ala the casting, the performances and the location and editing. There's a few indulgent shots, but mostly it's a well crafted intimate story about the vagaries of getting older and continuing to practice your art, especially when it depends so much on your physical stamina and abilities, like singing or playing a wind instrument.

As you can expect it's full of poignant moments reminding us of the challenges of aging and overcoming them, or at least facing them. It's also full of unexpected moments of laugh out loud comedy. With comedian, and consummate film actor, Billy Connelly as one of the leads, that isn't totally surprising. But it is when it comes from an actor I didn't realize was Tom Courtney, though I've seen him in films in recent decades I never noticed it was him until the credits to this one (and stay for the credits, they are part of the pleasure of the film as you will see) and realized here was the star of THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER and other great '60s British flicks.

The fourth member of the quartet is played by Pauline Collins who looked very familiar but in that way of actors whose faces you recognize but can't remember specifics (the same was true of the actress who plays the younger doctor in the old age musicians home they all end up in, Sheridan Smith, who I mistook for one of the actors on DOWNTON ABBEY but was correctly corrected by my friend Sue). Collins's performance is worth the price of the movie, especially her scenes with Maggie Smith who makes everyone better in any scene she takes part in.

I don't like to give away plot or too much story line so I'll just leave it at that, with the PS that I highly recommend seeing this movie, especially on a late Saturday afternoon, with its more traditional classic Hollywood pacing, and its neat little story (Ronald Harwood wrote the play it's based on and the screenplay) that leaves you, or at least me, highly satisfied when you come out squinting in the still shining sunlight before your eyes adjust.

1 comment:

AlamedaTom said...

Thanks for pulling my coat. I have read lots of favorable reviews. Puttin' it in the good old Netflix queue.