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TIFF Capsule Review: 'Quartet'

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire September 10, 2012 at 11:15PM

Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut is mainly of note because the iconic actor takes his first stab at working behind the camera. The lightweight story, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play about a retirement home for aging classical musicians, plays by the rules and lets the performances lead the way. Former opera stars Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Reggie (Tom Courtney) enjoy old age without much pressure. While Reggie enjoys teaching as a means of bridging the gap between classic music and popular forms, the boisterous Wilf gleefully hits on fellow retiree Cissy (Pauline Collins) while the trio gleefully reminisce about their halcyon days. When Reggie's ex Jean (Maggie Smith) shows up to reopen old wounds, Reggie at first resists her attempts to make amends. Then, as a possible means of catharsis, the four of them hesitantly team up to plot an unlikely reunion of the opera quartet that once brought them fame. While their constant grousing and squabbles are amusing enough, "Quartet" struggles to build its drama into something more eventful than the basic pieces set in place by the end of the first act. Satisfactory as an actors' showcase, "Quartet" mainly works because of its implied double-narrative: While the characters strive to show they still have talent, the actors do as well, and they nimbly transcend the limitations of the material. "I was someone once," Jean sighs at one point, to which Cissy replies, "I thought I was someone now." Her sentiment sums up every scene of "Quartet." Criticwire grade: B [Eric Kohn]
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Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut is mainly of note because the iconic actor takes his first stab at working behind the camera. The lightweight story, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play about a retirement home for aging classical musicians, plays by the rules and lets the performances lead the way. Former opera stars Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Reggie (Tom Courtney) enjoy old age without much pressure. While Reggie enjoys teaching as a means of bridging the gap between classic music and popular forms, the boisterous Wilf gleefully hits on fellow retiree Cissy (Pauline Collins) while the trio gleefully reminisce about their halcyon days. When Reggie's ex Jean (Maggie Smith) shows up to reopen old wounds, Reggie at first resists her attempts to make amends. Then, as a possible means of catharsis, the four of them hesitantly team up to plot an unlikely reunion of the opera quartet that once brought them fame. While their constant grousing and squabbles are amusing enough, "Quartet" struggles to build its drama into something more eventful than the basic pieces set in place by the end of the first act. Satisfactory as an actors' showcase, "Quartet" mainly works because of its implied double-narrative: While the characters strive to show they still have talent, the actors do as well, and they nimbly transcend the limitations of the material. "I was someone once," Jean sighs at one point, to which Cissy replies, "I thought I was someone now." Her sentiment sums up every scene of "Quartet." Criticwire grade: B [Eric Kohn]

This article is related to: Reviews, Quartet, Dustin Hoffman, Toronto International Film Festival