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Film review: ‘Quartet’ a too-gentle comedy about retired musicians

Young Simon (Jonaton S. Wächter) learns lessons from his mother (Helen Sjöholm) in the Swedish drama "Simon and the Oaks." Courtesy The Film Arcade

By Sean P. Means

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jan 24 2013 02:38PM
Updated Jan 25, 2013 07:17PM

For pity’s sake, can we keep Maggie Smith out of the retirement home?

On the heels of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" comes "Quartet," which casts Dame Maggie as Jean Horton, a retired opera star who moves in, reluctantly, to a home for aged musicians. She finds her old colleagues living there: Lothario Wilf (Billy Connelly), dotty Cissy (Pauline Collins) and morose Reginald (Tom Courtenay), who was once married to Jean and still nurses a broken heart. The relationships come to a head during the run-up to a fundraising gala, when its imperious director (Michael Gambon) urges the four to perform their signature number, a Verdi quartet.

Actor Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut here, and his mode of whimsical gentility won’t upset audiences but may lull them to sleep. Oddly, the movie’s most fascinating moments come over the closing credits, when Hoffman shows photos of his supporting cast members, many of them retired musicians and thespians, in their prime.

Smith is as delightful as ever, though the script (by "The Pianist’s" Ronald Harwood) doesn’t provide her the acid gems she drops regularly on "Downton Abbey.";

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