Dustin Hoffman first hit it big as an actor with two of the most memorable films of the late 1960’s, ‘The Graduate’, and ‘Midnight Cowboy’. He has also won two Academy Awards for ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ and ‘Rainman,’ so why start directing at 75 ? Why not ?
The diversely talented Hoffman has been described by some directors as “difficult”. In his 50 year career he has played everything from a college kid to a street person, a 100 year-old Native American (Little Big Man), and even a woman (Tootsie). Did his vast array of experience help him become a good director? I say yes!
‘The Quartet’ is a British film about a large group of retired opera singers and musicians who now reside in a rest home. Every year on Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday, they stage a concert to raise funds for the home. The pressure is on for the four best known performers to re-unite.
Maggie Smith heads an excellent cast of many now semi-retired British greats of theater and music. Tom Courtney plays the diva’s ex-husband, who does not even want to see her, let alone live under the same roof with her again. Billy Connelly is his vulgar but talented best friend, and the very needy Pauline Collins rounds out the foursome that once was known as ‘The Quartet’. Michael Gambon,(Dumbledore in the ‘Harry Potter’ series) plays the very degrading and condescending director of the concert, who apparently hates everybody.
Maggie Smith’s character is the main holdout to the reunion, playing a huge star long past her prime, that is being persuaded to re-form the quartet that made them all famous long ago. Will they overcome all the dirty laundry to appear once again as the group that made them all famous? And if they do, will they still sound the same?
The huge cast assembled by Hoffman are all over 70, and all were giants in their field. Watch for the short and piercing trumpet solos from a former member of Frank Sinatra’s band. Maggie smith and Tom Courtney came out of retirement to do this film. Hoffman’s point in ‘The Quartet’ is, just because someone is older, it doesn’t mean they can no longer perform, or contribute to society. Experience and knowledge are invaluable, so is ‘The Quartet’. Go see it, whether you (think you) like Opera or not.
A footnote: I had no idea Dustin Hoffman was 75. He looks 50. He is quick, witty, diversely talented, and has a vast knowledge of actors, directors and their sensitive personalities. This has now also made him a very good director.