Watch: Quartet

Arts & Culture

Directed by Dustin Hoffman (Weinstein Company, 2012)

Imagine a kindergarten full of wildly talented octogenarians preparing to put on a school musical and you have a sense of first-time director Dustin Hoffman’s predictable, silly, but ultimately touching romantic comedy about an aging group of musicians trying to save their beautiful but beleaguered retirement home by putting on a show. 

Hoffman’s lighthearted film sees a wildly flamboyant Cedric (Michael Gambon) organizing all the other retired musicians at Beecham House for the production of the annual musical gala. Playing the imperious impresario, Cedric pontificates at committee meetings and rehearsals, warning all his childlike charges that if they do not put on the best show ever, their home will go bankrupt—and they, supposedly, will have to sing or play for change on the street.

It is hard to take the threat of impending financial doom seriously, but it is a pleasure to watch Cedric’s hysterical theatrics and to see the gifted but often petulant performers organize themselves to put on a great show for anyone still willing to come see them play.

Hoffman has shown us our undying need for attention, our ageless appetite for a little love and a soft spotlight. Whether kindergartners or grandparents, we love to be loved. Decades ago Jean (Maggie Smith) and Reggie (Tom Courtenay) were world-class opera singers whose marriage was shattered by her infidelity. Still in love with the woman who betrayed him, Reggie must adjust to Jean’s unexpected presence at Beecham, while Jean must face the grief caused by her youthful folly.


Can fractured souls still figure out a way to make music together, to find the rhythm they lost in their thoughtlessness? Hoffman’s film suggests that if we can be entertained by kindergartners of any age, it is never too late to learn a new tune.

This article appeared in the May 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 5, page 42).