It took only 75 years for Dustin Hoffman to direct his first movie.
That he chose a film project way outside of Hollywood comprised of an entirely foreign cast (for an American actor and director) comes as a further surprise.
But the biggest shock of all is how his new movie, Quartet works so well. Beautifully filmed, musically enhanced, and topped by stellar performances all around from actors perfectly cast in each of their roles, Hoffman’s long-awaited directorial debut reveals that he picked up some excellent pointers over his last five decades in the movie business from mentors like Mike Nichols, John Schlesinger, Alan J. Pakula, Sydney Pollack, and others who mastered the meticulous craft of cinema from the opposite side of the camera.
Quartet tells the story of a group of retired classically-trained musicians living together in a palatial retirement home in England. All of the seniors were once world-class performers of classical music and opera. Most still play. So, adding it all together we have old people in a retirement home playing classical music. If all this sounds terribly dull and depressing, well think again.
Quartet mainly works because it treats its subjects with great respect and yet also manages to confront issues that elderly people must face about their impending mortality — with absolute credibility. These old people who move around slowly and dress funny aren’t to be pitied. They’re retired, but they still enjoy a zest for living life — which for each of them means continuing to play and perform the music they love.
A number of stories swirl around simultaneously — comprised mostly of personality conflicts and even romance among the cast. Indeed, this film offers a portrait of all our futures which is both realistic, as well as optimistic. Like a similar movie made last year called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, every action and word of dialogue is entirely believable.
This movie’s real charms are its subtleties. The way simple scenes flow together, the natural beauty of the estate, complimented by just the right classical vignette. There are no car crashes, special effects, long senseless monologues, or shocking endings. It’s a slice of real life, and the lives of these characters deserve proper reflection.
Perhaps the most satisfying moment of the film comes after the final scene, during the credits. The added bonus material won’t be revealed here. But be sure and don’t leave the movie theater early, or you’ll miss arguably the most poignant moment of the film.
Unfortunately, it’s my prediction that this movie won’t do particularly well at the box office. Young people, who comprise the majority of modern-day movie goers, aren’t much interested in older actors with British accents or stories about what happens inside a retirement home. And that’s a crying shame because it’s ultimately their loss.
But for more mature movie fans, and particularly those who incessantly complain that Hollywood doesn’t make films the way they used to, here’s a film tailor made for more senior sensibilities. Those who stay home and ignore a film like this film do absolutely nothing to support their own cinematic wants and desires. And no matter how you slice it — that’s the biggest shame of all.
MOVIE RATING: SEVEN STARS OUT OF TEN