Age before beauty: ‘Quartet’ is latest film to respect its elders

Posted on: 11:51 am, January 16, 2013, by

It’s no secret Hollywood is obsessed with youth. An army of plastic surgeons has nipped, tucked, and plumped just about every aging actress in town. Getting old is to be feared and avoided.

That seems a sad mindset to me, and it’s left a real void on the big screen. Until now. This, my friends, is the year of the Senior.

I’ll gladly raise a glass of Geritol in celebration.

I was thrilled when “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” chose to honor the Golden Years, giving a powerful exploration of the hopes and desires we retain in the “sunset” of our lives. It was one of the year’s best, and not a trace of Botox to be found. The Oscar nominated “Amour” adds another beautiful wrinkle to the genre. Again, we see aging, love and yes, death, confronted honestly and beautifully.

Into that mix, we now add “Quartet,” a delightful film that once again features actors of a certain age.

“Quartet” centers around Beecham House, a retirement manor for classical musicians. Here, the once-great divas and virtuosos come to live out their years.

I know. You’re bored already. Don’t be.

In his directing Debut, Dustin Hoffman (a sprightly 75) weaves humor, light drama, and joy into a lush visual tapestry that has me itching to join AARP.

Residents of the home are preparing for a fundraising concert. Into the mix walks famed Soprano Jean Horton (Maggie Smith). She’s a diva, she’s bitter, and she’s lost at love. But she was part of a once-great quartet. The other three singers already live at the manor, and wheels are set into motion for a grand reunion performance.

Singer Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly) has suffered a stroke that leaves him unable to censor his comments — some inappropriate, most laugh-out-loud funny. Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins) is confronting Alzheimers, grasping at memories of a life filled with music. Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay) was once married to the Diva Jean. He’s still heartbroken and angry. Singing with her one more time seems an impossible task.

Can they all reconcile in time to make beautiful music — just once more?

The plot of “Quartet” isn’t an intricate composition. Its music is simple, but like a good melody, it stays with you. These actors have none of the inhibitions or self-doubts that hinder many a “whipper-snapper.” Their performances are unadulterated, they are free to explore themselves and their situations with wild abandon. Some would say “age before beauty.” “Quartet” does one better.

Age is beauty.

Parente’s Final Verdict:  7.5 stars out of 10

“Quartet” is rated PG-13
It opens in Denver on January 25th, playing at the Esquire Theatre