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It wasn’t long ago that Actors of a Certain Age were expected to bow out of the Hollywood game with grace and poise. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. Thanks to movies like the Golden Globe-nominated The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the upcoming Red 2 and Dustin Hoffman’s (official) directorial debut, Quartet, elderly actors are proving that they can be every bit as entertaining as their more youthful counterparts.

Quartet checks into the Beecham House for retired musicians. As Verdi’s birthday approaches, the residents are preparing for the big fund-raising gala that they hope will keep the house up and running for the next year. While Cedric Livingston (Michael Gambon) scrambles to plan the event and oversee rehearsals, however, the house is abuzz with news of a new resident—one who’s rumored to be a big star.

The residents soon discover that the home’s big new star is Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), a retired opera singer who’s said to be “as large as life and twice as terrifying.” She also happens to be the ex-wife of long-time Beecham House resident Reggie (Tom Courtenay), who’s anything but excited about the reunion.

Jean’s participation in the gala could be the financial break that the home needs—but she insists that she’s retired, and she refuses to sing again.

With its inventive setting and its gregarious characters, Quartet is the latest installment in an ever-growing assembly of lovably quirky grown-up comedies.

The Beecham House is the kind of place that you’ll enjoy visiting. It’s filled with music and laughter—and more than a little trash talk. After all, many of the residents once found themselves in direct competition, battling one another for the best roles and the audience’s adoration. In their prime, they were musical divas; in old age, they’re still every bit as competitive as they once were—and, as an added bonus, most of them are now more than just slightly batty, too.

It’s the adorably egocentric characters and their clashing larger-than-life personalities that make Quartet a delight to watch. Billy Connolly steals the show as outspoken Wilf Bond, a lovable scamp who blames his often wildly inappropriate statements and suggestions on a past stroke. And Pauline Collins is irresistibly charming as every resident’s flighty friend, Cissy Robson.

Had the film simply focused on these kooky characters and their preparations for this all-important gala, it would have made for nearly non-stop chuckles. Instead, however, it tries a little too hard to have a heart, inserting a few scenes between Jean and Reggie that, while both sweet and dramatic, often tend to drag.

But while the pacing may sometimes feel a bit uneven, Quartet is still a charming comedy, populated by an entertaining ensemble of aging divas. So if you’re looking for a mature alternative to the winter’s usual cinematic debris, it’s worth a visit to this humorously unharmonious old folks’ home.

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