April 21, 2014

Scrolling Headlines:

UMass men’s lacrosse falls to Hofstra on Senior Night, 11-6 -

Saturday, April 19, 2014

VIDEO: UMass United Rally in support of Derrick Gordon, LGBTQ community -

Friday, April 18, 2014

Student rally in support of Gordon, LGBTQ community -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

John Ashcroft faces criticism during speech -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass football continues move in new direction in annual Spring Game -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thousands gather in Amherst Commons for 23rd Annual Extravaganja -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sexual violence is not ‘normal’ -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

One year after Boston Marathon bombings, UMass doctor Pierre Rouzier continues passion to help -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photo Slideshow: UMass United Rally -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Get Yourself Tested at UMass -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Library labyrinth targets stress -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

There is nothing to debate about global warming -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass hits the road to take on LaSalle -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

No. 11 UMass women’s lacrosse looks to extend winning streak against Richmond -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive latest McCormack Executive-in-Residence -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Got a little Irish in you? -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass doctoral student awarded Soros Fellowship -

Thursday, April 17, 2014

UMass Dressage Team discusses the lesser-known sport -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Canelas: Things worth watching in Spring Game 2014 -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

‘The Walking Dead’ finale resurrects a dull season -

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

“Quartet” a beautiful, loving ode to music and retirement

TWC Publicity

“Quartet” is a quiet comedy-drama that tells the story of four elderly men and women living at Beecham House – a home for retired musicians – as they struggle to maintain their identities as they reach old age.

Dustin Hoffman stepped behind the camera for “Quartet,” his first major directorial debut. “Quartet” is a slick effort that shows a lot of promise of things to come, from the oftentimes beautiful scenery to the briskness of the story, the film’s successful direction puts Hoffman in good stead for future projects.

Hoffman’s work is complemented by a strong script from Ronald Harwood, who also wrote the original stage play of the same name. Some jokes don’t completely hit their mark, leading to awkwardly pregnant pauses where the audience is meant to laugh at the preceding witticisms. Nevertheless, the banter is still quite snappy and the story seems to have lost very little in its transition from stage to film.

The ensemble cast is unsurprisingly fantastic. Maggie Smith plays prideful legend Jean Horton with strong, brisk elegance, which we have come to expect from the veteran actress.

Tom Courtenay portrays the troubled, but loyal Reginald Paget, giving a subtle, complex performance that invigorates his character with a mysterious emotional depth.

Billy Connolly is the randy Scot Wilfred “Wilf” Bond, whose coarse sexual antics make him the standout scene-stealer in “Quartet.” Pauline Collins is the memory-challenged Cecily “Cissy” Robson, who seems to have an interesting backstory that is unfortunately never fully investigated.  

Michael Gambon reunites with Smith after their major roles in the Harry Potter films, and appears to struggle as he manages his elderly peers in preparation for the annual Beecham House gala.

While the real-life counterparts of the main characters are wholly untrained in music, Hoffman wisely chose many actual retired musicians to work as extras in the film. This successfully conceals the technical ineptitude of the main cast while making Beecham House a believable home for these aging performers.

Thematically, “Quartet” seems to recall the glory of days past while reaffirming the trends of the present. In one particularly compelling scene, Courtenay attempts to understand the concept of rap from a young black student while simultaneously conveying the importance of opera to the rest of the class. Beyond the inherent humor in this exchange, there is a clear message of acceptance on both sides – the lines of communication between the new and old generations are still open, which is promising considering both demographics have a lot to learn from one another.

What is most notable about “Quartet” outside of its sound writing, direction, and acting, is its commitment to positivity. The film almost never truly hits a sour note, and maintains an almost euphoric feeling of gaiety throughout without ever becoming overly saccharine; owing in large part to Connolly, Smith, Collins and Courtenay, the movie feels organic and subtle as opposed to manufactured and contrived. So while the story remains fairly predictable, the climax and ultimate character development still make for a wholly satisfying conclusion to the narrative.

Indeed, the sheer joy of seeing these elderly gentlemen and women work through their difficulties and overcome their universal fears and damaged pride is an emotional experience. 

There are two films out right now that endeavor to explore what it means to reach old age, and both use musicians as vehicles for their respective narratives. Although “Amour” would appear to be the most emotionally charged on the topic, surprisingly it is “Quartet” that connects most strongly with the viewer. Slick direction, a compelling narrative played out superbly by the veteran cast makes for excellent viewing on the topic of aging and its problems.

Soren Hough can be reached at shhough@student.umass.edu.

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