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Dustin Hoffman's 'Quartet' Boasts British Acting Royalty

4 veteran stars bring heart to a music-infused drama

Hoffman's brilliance here is that he understands rejection, and he's spent a lot of time thinking about — and railing against — stereotypical views of aging. What he demands of this already-very-talented group of actors is compassion for their characters and what they're going through. He drives his actors to elicit nuance as they interact with one another in romantic, funny, sad, but always realistic ways. Perhaps because he once dreamed of being a jazz pianist (and continues to practice on the side), Hoffman ingeniously infuses the film with passionate musical performances by casting a number of professional musicians in supporting roles. Many of them, age 70 or older, are still in top form, although, as the director admits, "no one had rung their phone for 30, 40, even 50 years." Of note are the 80-something trumpet player Ronnie Hughes and the Welsh soprano Dame Gwyneth Jones.

A minor complaint about Quartet is that the plot moves along somewhat predictably. And in a visually beautiful film, rich in setting and costumes, the final scene (spoiler alert) is exclusively an aural experience. While Courtenay, Connolly, Collins and Smith are by no means, in real life, professional opera singers, as the theme of Quartet suggests, it should not have been too late to try.

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