the film adaptation of Neil Simon’s California
Suite, Dame Maggie Smith played a beloved English actor, rather embarrassed
to be nominated for light weight comedic role.
She won her second Oscar for that role.
Somewhat ironically, Smith is back in Oscar contention for more or less
the sort of part Simon’s character was up for.
The just winner of back-to-back Emmy Awards for Downton Abbey, Smith may not exactly be the sympathetic favorite
for Quartet (trailer here), Dustin Hoffman’s
feature directorial debut, which opens this Friday in New York.
House for retired musicians (mostly classical, aside from a few token big band
vets) is anticipating the arrival of a new resident. Jean Horton was the diva of her day. She was also part of the celebrated “Rigoletto
Quartet,” whose other three members are already residents of Beecham. Their reunion is the cause of great
trepidation for her. Everyone gets along
with Wilf Bond, the compulsive old flirt.
Likewise, Cissy Robson’s good nature never fails her, but her mind is
slowly slipping. Reggie Paget is another
story. Still sharp as a tack, he
remembers only too well his ill-fated relationship with Horton. Indeed, his bitterness still lingers.
the four former friends be able to put their differences behind them a come
together as quartet to save Beecham House at the annual talent show gala? Are the ponds in New Hampshire still golden?
might be the film's biggest name,
but the Weinsteins shoulld have put Quartet's Oscar chips on Tom Courtenay. He brings such exquisite dignity and
sophistication to Paget, viewers will long to see him in a film with more heft. Smith is fine as Horton, but the character
just seems so bland and pedestrian compared to Downton’s fan favorite, the Dowager Countess. Rounding out the foursome, Billy Connolly is
likably roguish as Bond and Pauline Collins is rather sweet and earnest as
Robson. There is nothing really wrong
about Quartet, per se, except a lack
of ambition, adding up to a bit of Marigold
No horses were injured in the filming of Quartet, so it has that going for
it. Do not expect any surprises though,
in this story of third act pluckiness adequately but not inspiringly helmed by
Hoffman. Frankly, there is something slightly
frustrating about a film whose most inspired moment is its closing credits, in
this case showing vintage photos of its cast of accomplished opera singers,
classical musicians, and classically trained thespians early in their careers. Predictable and unabashedly sentimental, Quartet should satisfy those who like
sugary, ascot-wearing films (but classical music connoisseurs will be better
advised to check out A Late Quartet instead).
It opens this Friday (1/11) in New York
at the Paris Theatre.
Labels: Dame Maggie Smith, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Courtenay