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September 22nd, 2014

Quartet

Coming soon to the Savoy Theater…  Quartet

I don’t know for sure, but it looks like growing old stinks.

A woman in the movie “Quartet” has a catchphrase: “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” The joke is that the character’s name is Cissy. But, really, it’s no joke at all. Old age is one long series of bummers, big and small.

Losing your eyesight and hearing. Finding yourself unable to keep up at work like you used to. Discovering that people who used to look up to you no longer respect you as much.

Father Time is a nasty, heartless son of a gun. But you don’t have to fight him alone. “Quartet” is a feel-good story about a group of friends who are trying to make the best of their golden years.

The film takes place at Beecham House, a home for retired musicians. Beecham House is better than the average old age home – if only because clarinets and pianos can’t be turned up to inhumanely loud volumes, and televisions certainly can.

The residents of Beecham House are all former stars of the British stage and opera scene. Instead of watching CNN and Pawn Stars, they spend their days playing and singing together.

The drama begins when mild-mannered opera singer Reginald learns that Jean (Maggie Smith) – the woman who cheated on him right after they got married – is moving in. Apparently there is no statute of limitations on a broken heart.

Reginald needs to find a way to forgive Jean AND to convince her to perform Verdi’s Rigoletto at Beecham House’s annual fund-raising gala.

Mostly, “Quartet” is a pleasant comedy. Reginald’s Scottish best friend Wilf (Billy Connolly) is hilarious. He is the most charming, lovable dirty old man in cinema history.

However, first time director Dustin Hoffman made a few mistakes. Firstly, Reginald is a terrible influence. Not that there were many young people in the audience, but I hope that none of them got the impression that it’s a wise move to waste 50 years of your life pining over a girl.

Once Reginald got divorced, he should have focused his emotional energy on getting to know some of the three billion ladies who didn’t break his heart, not waiting around for the one lady who did.

The ending of “Quartet” was very disappointing to me. Going in, I didn’t know what Rigoletto is. The movie made such a big deal about it, though, I was looking forward to seeing the lead characters perform it in the final scene. Instead, the camera cuts away just before the show.

It’s a total cop out. Imagine if “Star Wars” ended just before the rebels’ final attack. Imagine if the screen had gone black and a message appeared: “Luke used the force to destroy the Death Star. It blew up just as Luke and Han were flying away. It was totally awesome. But you’ll have to take our word for it because we couldn’t figure out how to film the scene.” That’s how the ending of “Quartet” felt to me.

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