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Sharps and Flats,
This review is from: Quartet [DVD] (DVD)
I am conflicted about this film, which, despite an excellent cast, missed the mark for me. If it is intended for the over-sixties, its gratuitous coarseness may put many of that audience off. If it is intended for lovers of classical music, the chopped-up snippets of opera, interspersed with Bach & Zumba, certainly will do so (I couldn't believe the sloppy job of sound editing, which removed a couple of bars from a splendid 'cello rendition of Saint-Saens' "Dying Swan": absolutely unforgivable!). I was especially cross that the promised quartet never materialised, except as a 'voiceover' with the end credits. I realise that neither Smith or the others are real singers, and that dubbing believable ageing voices would have been unthinkable, but the rehearsals of the eponymous quartet--drowned out by a Bach fugue--and then the story coming to an abrupt end--with Pavarotti and the rest singing the real quartet from "Rigoletto" as the credits rolled--seemed a bit of a cheat.
I adore both Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon, who bring a touch of class to anything they do. Of the other actors, Tom Courteney, as Maggie's former husband and singing partner, was likeable, but for some reason I did not believe that the members of the once-and-future quartet had ever been opera singers. I found Billy Connolly just plain annoying, and I found the comely blond Doctor totally implausible as the director of a care home, whether for retired singers or not. The group of elderly actors, including Andrew Sachs and Dame Gwyneth Jones, are wonderful old troupers, and the film is a splendid stage for them to shine their brightest.
I think that Dustin Hoffman's heart is in the right place and that the film was well intended (The end credits, which feature pictures of the musician-actors as they are in the movie and as they were during their real careers, are both moving and splendid!), but I simply was not convinced by his handling of the actors.
A quartet is an ensemble, and unfortunately I never felt that the characters ever quite came together; whether the fault is with the director or the writer I am uncertain. As much as I wanted to enjoy the film, I could not. Something about it was slightly off key.
Reviewed for Vine; Amazon.com