Dustin Hoffman has had quite a career as an actor, with some of the most interesting and envelope-pushing performances and characters in some of the best movies of all time; The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, Rain Man, Straw Dogs, Papillion, All The President's Men, Kramer VS Kramer, Tootsie, Marathon Man. So why he has chosen to tell an incredibly dull story for his directorial debut is something of a mystery.
Set in a home for retired opera singers, the residents are preparing for their annual concert under the supervision of director Cedric (Michael Gambon). The story centres on Wilf (Billy Connolly), Cissy (Pauline Collins) and Reginald (Tom Courtenay); three best friends who are more so enduring than enjoying the slide into old age. However, their peaceful way of life is disrupted by a new addition to the home, Jean (Maggie Grace); a diva even in her old age, and Reginald's ex-wife. Jean is shocked that these old folk are still expecting to perform, and refuses to take part in the upcoming concert, but at the same time she tries to repair her relationship with Reginald who, even after all these years, is still clearly raw from the heart-break.
In the mix of endless classical music references which, unless you know your Vivaldi from your Verdi, will fly right over head, Quartet is not an especially easy movie to care about. Hoffman does a good job of belying its theatre origins, as the home itself and the grounds it is on are both beautiful to look at, but unfortunately the story is where the film falls flat. There is nothing particularly original here, with old people falling in-and-out of love already covered recently by The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Something's Gotta Give, and despite the fact that the concert is supposed to be saving the home from closure, there is never any real sense of tension or impending danger around this fact.
On the upside, the actors do their best with their mostly 2D characters, particularly Billy Connolly as a horny charmer who hits on anything with a pulse, and Michael Gambon as the screeching musical dictator. But this alone isn't enough to fully recommend Quartet to anyone beyond fans of classical music or grandparents with an hour and a half to kill.