Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with an octogenarian comedy, starring A-list actors he may have partied with back in the 1960s. Nicole Jantze is still humming a few tunes.
Photo courtesy of SCADAt the age of 75, award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman directs his first feature, Quartet, which stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon (yes, that’s Professor McGonnell and Dumbledore), Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay. The film is slated for a December 28 release nationwide—just in time for Oscar contention. But, at its heart, it's a light comedy, perfectly suited for post-holiday binge viewing. The film opens as Beecham House residents are preparing as meticulously as the Royal Opera House for their annual gala concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. There is a bit more riding on this year’s concert with the threat of the Beecham House running out of funds. Cedric (Gambon) carries the burden as the director of the gala as Wilf (Connolly), Cissy (Collins) and Reggie (Courtenay) unravel over the arrival of the eventual fourth member of the quartet, star soloist Jean (Smith), whose affair with another musician on her wedding night split up their long friendship and ended her nine-hour marriage to Reggie. The plot is predictable, but Hoffman’s steady hand and the interactions of the characters, based upon a play by Ronald Harwood, strike a harmonious note. And then, there’s the music: Verdi (1813-1901) worked closely with his librettists (lyric writers) to marry plot and performance to verse and music. And that is what Hoffman has so smartly done with Quartet. In a retirement home where the residents are still very much living—quite fully and humorously, might I add—Verdi is the only old guy you will see.