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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Quartet

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins star in a scene from the movie "Quartet."
Dustin Hoffman steps behind the camera for his directorial debut with "Quartet" (Weinstein), a comedy-drama about musical artists who face the ultimate curtain call: a date with the Grim Reaper.

Based on the play by Ronald Harwood (who also wrote the screenplay), "Quartet" casts senior citizens in the same warm and fuzzy glow as last year's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." Amid the gags and catfights, however, lie serious reflections on the challenges of aging and a reminder to embrace the talents of our still-vital elderly.

Beecham House in the picturesque English countryside is a home for retired singers and musicians. As such, it's a haven for eccentrics and outsize egos, ringing true Bette Davis' famous observation, "Old age is not for sissies."

Impresario Cedric Livingston (Michael Gambon) corrals the residents to put on a fundraiser every year on composer Giuseppe Verdi's birthday. His dream is to reunite four legendary opera singers who once performed the "Quartet" from Verdi's "Rigoletto."

"It would be as if Maria Callas made her comeback," he predicts.

The ensemble is made up of newly arrived, acid-tongued diva Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), her gentle ex-husband Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), dotty Cecily Robson (Pauline Collins), who's in the early stages of dementia, and randy rogue Wilfred Bond (Billy Connolly). Wilf, as he's known, is forever flirting with the young staff.

All of the singers are keen for the reunion, except Jean, who fears stepping into the spotlight again. "My gift deserted me," she tells Reginald.

"It deserted us all," he says. "It's called life."

Jean has an ulterior motive: to reconcile with Reginald, whom she abandoned for an affair with a rival tenor. She regrets the indiscretion, but Reginald is still bitter.

"I wanted a dignified senility," he muses. "Fat chance now that she's here."

Still, the show must go on, and nothing tempts an aging performer more than the smell of greasepaint and the glare of the footlights.

The salty language in "Quartet" and the script's rather juvenile obsession with sex (it's ripe with British euphemisms like "rumpy-pumpy") distract somewhat from the fun of watching the veteran actors perform as well as from the pleasures afforded by the glorious soundtrack.

The film contains sexual innuendo and some profane and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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