No one does arch like Maggie Smith,' my mum said. Quite true. We're both big fans of hers, so Quartet was one on our 'to see list'. When we entered the cinema I felt quite out of place. Except for the two of us, I don't think there could have been anyone under sixty. I suppose that should not be particularly surprising since the film is is aimed at a more mature audience.
Set in a home for retired musicians, Quartet begins with a musical montage that establishes what everyday life is like. Among the residents who live at the home is dirty old man, Wilf (Billy Connolly), the ditzy Cissy (Pauline Collins), who appears to be in the early stages of dementia, and Reg, who prides his dignity above all else. The three of them used to be in a quartet that sang an operatic rendition of Rigoletto. Also among the residents is Cedric (Michael Gambon), a bossy egotist who is trying to organise a gala night in order to raise enough money to stop the home from closing down. Unfortunately, his lead singer has been taken ill and there is no one good enough to replace him.
Meanwhile, Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), the fourth member of the Rigoletto quartet moves into the home. Wilf and Cissy are both thrilled to see her, but Reg is horrified at the arrival of the woman from his past.
The characters are funny, but believable, and the topic of growing old is handled very well. You empathise with the characters, but by they are by no means pitiable. Far from being sweet and frail old grannies, they can be loud, obnoxious, and on occasion, like to have all the joie de vive as anyone half their age.
Quartet moves at a gentle pace - perhaps at the beginning, a little too gentle. The plot takes a while to get going, and sometimes it feels like you are meandering along, but not really going anywhere. It is, however, a nice change from being thrust into the action full charge, and makes for a nice film to watch on a quiet, lazy afternoon.