COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 38min

STARRING: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins

Stage fright: Collins and Smith

Beecham House is a British retirement home for classical musicians whose bodies are failing but whose duelling egos are loud and proud in the lead-up to their annual Giuseppe Verdi gala. The last thing courtly one-time opera singer Reginald (Courtenay) needs in the genteel hubbub is the arrival of ex-wife Jean Horton (Smith), retired soprano star and a prima donna to her manicured fingertips. By Reggie’s reckoning, the two haven’t crossed paths in 97 years, but Jean’s iffy behaviour has stood the test of time.


Age is no barrier for emotions in Ronald Harwood’s screenplay, which he adapted from his play and which Dustin Hoffman directs with the ease of a man who has moseyed around the odd movie set. Here’s cheers to Quartet ’s fighting spirit but unless you’re a fan of the elderly dropping the F-bomb, the well-meant friskiness seems patronising. And while Reggie, Jean and their brittle, resistant fellow vocalists, cheeky Wilf (Connolly) and dotty Cissy (Collins), are sweethearts, their rosy send-off is a kindly foregone conclusion.