Dustin Hoffman's anti-Amour.


If summer is synonymous with superheroes and Halloween means horror, mid-January has seemingly cornered the market on movies that depict elderly bourgeois musicians confronting the indignities of aging. Hot on the heels of Michael Haneke’s bleak, brilliant Amour, Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with Quartet, adapting Ronald Harwood’s play about the retirement home entanglements of four once-vaunted vocalists. Beyond their similar subject matter, though, there’s little risk of confusing the films. Where Amour is an unflinching drama and an acting tour-de-force, Hoffman’s effort is a frothy trifle, scarcely taxing the talents of its distinguished cast.

Erstwhile opera stars Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly share a life of lightly comic misadventure at Beecham House, a stately countryside care facility for aged performers. Trouble looks to be brewing with the news that Beecham’s finances are in a bad way, followed by the arrival of the trio’s former collaborator—and Courtenay’s bitterly estranged ex—in the form of Maggie Smith’s wrathful faded diva. But both potential crises are speedily smoothed over in duly life-affirming fashion, leaving a little too much time for Collins’ bubbly senility shtick and Connolly’s Cialis-ad brand of horny grandpa humour.