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Quartet
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346 of 356 people found the following review helpful
Here is a cast to die for, playing characters in a home for retired opera singers; they are preparing for their annual celebration of Verdi's birthday. But there is a "spanner (wrench) in the works" when a former diva arrives, in the person of Maggie Smith. Based on the play by Ronald Harwood and directed by first-timer Dustin Hoffman, this delicious PG-13 comedy bathes us in classical music, witty dialogue and a lovely setting. In fact the opening credits include some of the finest editing I've had the pleasure to enjoy in recent years. Kudos to Barney Pilling for the film editing; Ben Smith for the art direction; and Dustin Hoffman for respecting the music.

The world of opera is a relatively small one, so it is no surprise that a few of these divas and divos have a shared "history," and therein lies our tale.

Let's look at some of this wonderful cast:
* Maggie Smith ("Downton Abbey") is Jean, who always had at least 12 curtain calls but hasn't been in the spotlight for far too long!
* Michael Gambon ("Harry Potter") is Cedric, in charge of the star-studded gala, with a towering ego of his own.
* Billy Connolly ("Brave") is Wilf, proof positive that an old horn dog never quits sniffing around.
* Tom Courtenay ("Gambit") is Reggie, a kind, considerate fellow who is still nursing a broken heart.
* Pauline Collins ("You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger") is Cissy, the sweet busybody who can't think of one bad thing to say about anyone.

Just a couple of important tips: 1) If you have any hearing problems, either see this in a theater that features closed captions, or wait for the DVD with Amazon.com so you can turn on the subtitles. 2) Be sure to stay through the final credits because Mr Hoffman generously included the faces of many of the performers, along with a head shot of that same performer during his or her heyday. What a beautiful finale!

BTW: I just received my DVD from Amazon and it DOES have closed captions. Yippee!
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170 of 177 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2013
Beecham House, the setting of this film, is an English country estate, a posh historical mansion surrounded by acres of park and garden. It's autumn, the leaves are gorgeous, Golden Pond was never so scenic, and the inhabitants -- a couple dozen octogenarian "retired professional musicians living on charity -- are effectively in Paradise. They're a handsome crowd too, these oldsters with much of their talent and all of their ego intact. Not an oxygen tank or a movable chemo-drip in sight! Alzheimer's, senility, dementia? Acknowledged but quaintly innocuous. Crotchets and squabbles? No worse than among younger folk. A doctor in residence and a staff of sympathetic nurses? Hey, nothing but the ritz for beloved stars of yestershow! A real place? Don't we wish, we soon-to-be-aged musicians! It's fantasyland, but I'm NOT complaining. The film is too visually luscious not to be appreciated, and the acting is too artful not to be admired.

Bill Connolly has the "Peter Pan" role as Wilfred, the irrepressible flirt and funster of Beecham House. Pauline Collins is the sparkly but memory-challenged Cecily, the perfect Tinkerbell to run errands and deliver messages in this musical Neverland. Tom Courtenay is Reginald, earnest and unimpaired though subtly challenged by his own realism in this kingdom of Children Who Decline to Grow Old. Maggie Smith is the haughty, acerbic narcissistic super-diva Jean, to whom falls the Captain Hook role of antagonist. We the audience all know that she'll be captured eventually, conquered by joie de vivre, and join the Lost Boys in their climactic gala rumpus. Great fun! Who doesn't love Peter Pan?

"Getting old is what people do," says Reginald somewhere in the middle of the film, and ain't that the bleary-eyed truth! I've seen three movies in real theaters this winter -- Quartet, A Separation, and Michael Haneke's devastating Amour -- all of them focusing my 71-year-old attention on aging and dying. Is this some kind of omen? Foreboding? A warning shot across the bow of my walker? I won't grow up! I won't grow up! Peter? Tinkerbell? Where are you now that I need you?

Perhaps Dustin Hoffman is the J.M. Barrie of our generation.
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94 of 96 people found the following review helpful
I'm not sure if you have to be over the hill (as I am), to love this movie (as I did) about a home for retired musicians, but it certainly appears that way to me after coming home and reading A. O. Scott's middling New York Times review and its online reader responses, which seem to be either total disdain or absolute delight and nothing in between.

It probably helps to have a lifelong love of classical music, especially opera, with just a smidgen of Gilbert & Sullivan & vaudeville mixed in.

While, as expected, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Michael Gambon are superb in the leading roles, the supporting player-musicians, who also inhabit the beautiful, scenic Beecham House, some of whom are familiar faces but most of whom I'd never heard of, are a joy to behold as well. Please be sure to stay for the closing credits where you'll see headshots of each of them as they are now and as they were in a key role from their heydays.

No one sums it up better than Ann Hornaday in her rave review in the January 24, 2013 Washington Post: "Smoothly navigating the perilous line between insufferably twee and heartbreakingly grim, "Quartet" is a subtle, sure-footed delight -- made all the more enjoyable by the fact that it was directed by a 75-year-old first-timer named Dustin Hoffman. Judging from this debut, the kid's got a future."

RE THE DVD EXTRAS: There's a batch of short clips of the leading actors talking about the movie and what it was like to work with Hoffman. But my fave is Hoffman's commentary track. You get the impression of an old friend sitting alongside you with his feet up, filling you in on the story behind the creation of these scenes, how they found all those wonderful old musicians for the supporting roles, sharing anecdotes about the actors and production challenges, pointing out how much of what's on screen was in the script and how much (quite a lot) was improvised. (Example: Pauline Collins's request--which was granted--that she adapt and play her character as being in the early stages of dementia, modeled on her own real-life mother.) It's great fun to go back to the movie for another look with DH's insights and anecdotes and backgrounders in mind.

I'm thinking this DVD might make just the right double feature for "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
"Quartet" (2012 release; 97 min.) is not to be confused with that other recent classical music-themed movie called "A Late Quartet" (more on that later). This movie brings the story of Beecham House, a place in England that is "Home for Retired Musicians", but more accuratly very gifted musicians. All is well at Beecham House until the arrival of a new retiree, Jean Horton (played by Maggie Smith), once a very famous operetta singer. On top of that, also living at Beecham House is her ex-husband of many years ago, Reginald "Reg" Paget (played by Tom Courtenay). The annual gala (providing much needing funds for the continuing existance of Beecham House) is coming up, and the question is whether Jean and Reg, along with Wilf (played by Billy Connolly) and Cissy (played by Pauline Collins) will reunite as a quartet from many years ago to bring Verdi's Rigoletto.

Several comments: noteworthy, this is the debut of Dustin Hoffman as a director. Why it has taken him this long to go beyond the camera I don't know, but better late than never (hey, he's a spring chicken at a mere mid-70s!). The acting performances are a delight pretty much from start to finish, even with Maggie Smith playing a mostly unlikable character (Jean is a "prima donna" for most of the movie, pining for her golden years of success and asking herself "why do we have to get old?"). The movie is correctly billed as a comedy-drama. When it stays light-hearted, the movie plays great, but when it goes for the drama angle, the movie falters badly, and the end of the movie is utterly predictable. (But stay for the end credits! We get to see who among those at Beecham House in the movie were real-life musicians and what they did back then. One of the best surprises of the movie.)

The proof is in the pudding: when I saw it in the theatre here in Cincinnati last weekend, the audience (of mostly seniors, I might add) lapped it up with chuckles and all-out laughter during the lighter moments of the movie (typical example: Reg reminisces to Jean 'I took 12 curtain calls' to which Jean immediately replies 'no you didn't, you took 9 and I took 12'). In the end, the movie was fine but it doesn't make a lasting impression. This is in contrast to that other recent quartet movie I mentioned ("A Late Quartet", starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken), which I absolutely loved. That aside, classical music is front and center in both these movies, so if you're not into classical music, save yourself the trouble.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
I'll watch anything with Maggie Smith, but this is an amazing and charming performance. However, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly steal every scene they are in! Set in a retirement home for British musicians, this sweet, funny, touching film has something for everyone. The characters are charming and engaging, but the script does not make them buffoons or treat them as stupid children. You will fall in love with each of these three-dimensional people.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2013
Dustin Hoffman's "Quartet," from Ronald Harwood's screenplay, takes the middle ground between "Amour" and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Like "Amour," it depicts the infirmities of old age honestly. But like "Marigold Hotel," it takes an upbeat view of its elderly characters, portraying their lives as triumphant rather than tragic.

There isn't much to the story, which takes place in Beecham House, an elegant but financially troubled home for retired musicians. The residents are planning their annual gala on Oct. 10, Verdi's birthday, the revenues from which comprise a good portion of Beecham House's operating funds. Cedric (Michael Gambon), the imperious director of the annual gala, has commanded Reggie (Tom Courtenay), Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Cissy (Pauline Collins) to persuade Jean (Maggie Smith), a famous diva newly arrived at Beecham House, to sing at the gala. Jean, Reggie, Wilf and Cissy made a legendary recording of "Rigoletto" many years before, and their singing the quartet from "Rigoletto" at the gala would guarantee a big enough attendance to keep the home open indefinitely. However, Jean is painfully conscious that her voice is no longer what it was, and angrily rejects her friends' entreaties.

There are further complications, the biggest is which is Jean and Reggie's painful romantic and marital history. Also, Wilf and Cissy are not well: Wilf has had a series of strokes, and Alzheimer's disease is tightening its grip on Cissy.

Despite the sorrows, however, the overall mood of "Quartet" is genial and celebratory. Michael Powell once said that the only important things in life are love and art, and both are worth dying for. Hoffman and Harwood show us characters for whom art--specifically, the art of music--has been their entire way of life. Between that art and the love they bear for each other, they can go, if not gently, at least with equanimity into that good night.

The final scenes of "Quartet" will leave you smiling through tears, but the final credits--which shows pictures of the various cast members in their prime--will have you bawling and applauding simultaneously. "Quartet" may not be an important film, but it is a sublimely satisfying one.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2013
Many others have written lengthy and accurate views. I'll not waste your time on more words.
I found this film spectacular. A line I remember, "Your repeating yourself." The lead tenor, Gene Horton's love (Maggie Smith) responds, "In opera we're always repeating ourselves." The film is about a group of old people trying to recreate those golden moments of flow from their past lives. Are we not all like that, or don't we all attempt it, but so few succeed. This group at the retirement home actually pulls it off. The quartet does put on a very respectable quartet from the end of Rigoletto - the most magnificent quartet music ever written. The credits are astounding. I stayed till the end. All the actors are not actors; they are retired musicians. They play and sing all the music in the film. Their images, from their prime, fill the right hand of the screen as the credits roll by: la Scala, Covent Gardens, the Met, Frank Sinatra's orchestra, D'Oyly Carte and many others. What a stunningly elegant touch; it must be Hoffman's idea.
This film is a must see.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2013
Maggie Smith stars as Jean Horton, an aging opera diva waiting for a new hip (again! same premise as Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) who has run out of money to pay for her incredibly gorgeous London flat and so has to move to Beecham House, opulent retirement home for aged musicians. She arrives to a standing ovation, to find that her ex-husband, a few old friends and one rival diva rank amongst the inhabitants of the home.
Tom Courtenay is Reginald Paget, Jean's ex and is particularly wonderful and moving I thought. Billy Connolly is randy old Wilf Bond, there for comic effect (brilliant move Dustin) and Pauline Collins is perfect as the adorable but slightly demented Cissy Robson.
Don't believe some of the cynical reviews out there. This one is a keeper and will be purchased by me to pull out regularly when I need a little lift. It is not a realistic film (if you have spent any time around a real retirement/nursing home you will know what I mean) but it is not meant to be. It is meant to be an uplifting, inspirational film about how to age gracefully, supported by good friends and continuing to pursue your passions. Kind of like hanging around with the coolest grandparents in England!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
It is so refreshing to see a movie not about tattooed teenage angst and to have two of them-- I'm referring now to "Marigold Hotel" in the space of a few months is quite a gift to movie-goers. "Quartet" is based on the play by Ronald Harwood and directed by Dustin Hoffman in his directorial debut at the age of seventy-five. The wait was worth it. It has been a very long time since he thrilled us with "The Graduate" and "Midnight Cowboy."

A retirement home for musicians! What a wonderful concept! The movie has everything going for it: the stellar cast is headed by that grand dame Maggie Smith, and the music of course is beautiful. And can there be a more poignant moving theme than that of love in old age. To paraphrase a bit from Tennyson's poem "Ulysses," while these singers may not be those that in old age moved earth and heaven-- and opera lovers too-- they are still standing and surviving.

One of the pluses about the film is that the supporting characters are all actual singers and other musicians. When the credits come up, photographs of the performers from their heyday are juxtaposed with stills from them in the movie.

I saw this film at least three weeks ago and am still basking in the afterglow.

Highly recommended.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 9, 2013
At the age of 75, Dustin Hoffman appears to be looking for a second career as a director. And from the look and feel of this, his first attempt, he should have some success. The film centers on a retirement home in pastoral England, established for aging musicians, classical musicians specifically. Four residents in particular drive the story.

Reggie (Tom Courtenay) and Wilf (Billy Connolly) and Cissy (Pauline Collins) are soon joined by a true opera star, Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) who was once part of their quartet and had a brief marriage to Reggie. Years earlier with her career about to take off, she left the group and her husband and never looked back. Reggie in particular isn't about to reconcile. Michael Gambon also stars as Cedric who fancies himself as a producer/director and is putting together a live performance with the residents. You know, to make money and save the home from possibly closing.

Like this plot gimmick, "Quartet" doesn't break any new ground and is predictable to a fault. At the same time the film is light hearted, funny and contains some spirited dialog, most of which belongs to Wilf. There's also a nice scene when Reggie has a group of teens over for a lecture of sorts. He gets into an exchange with a young man about the differences between opera and rap music. Entertaining and insightful as is the whole movie.
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