We all know what a great actor Dustin Hoffman is and how much pleasure he has given us on the screen. What a nice surprise to see him act so skillfully as a director in his debut film, "Quartet."
The storyline is delightful -- egotistical fading musicians and opera singers all holed up in an "old folks' home" in the English countryside. The stars of the past remain even more so in their old age. They share aches and pains, uber egos, and old grudges.
Billy Connolly shines as the humorous Wilfred Bond, whose inappropriate running commentary both shock and entertain. Maggie Smith as Jean Horton continues the habitual casting of her as queen of the diva roles from "Downton Abbey" to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." In this more romantic role, she softens up as she repairs the damage of breaking off relations with an old love, Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay).
Playing against time, the home's inhabitants break rules and send caution to the wind. They smoke and drink on the sly and tell inappropriate horny thoughts to younger staff memories. Most importantly they play out their past jealousies and rivalries into their old age, all contributing to the audience's delight.
Cissy Robson's (Pauline Collins) issues with remembering are a mixed bag. On one hand it makes for funny scenes, on the other hand it is unnerving to watch. A lovely scene takes place when Reggie tries to explain opera to young audience full of rap and hip hop fans.
Usually Hollywood dumps lesser fare in the early months of the year as the Oscar race is on. "Quartet," with its well paced and humorous plot, proves the exception to the rule. And its elderly cast and themes will certainly generate a great box office.