Even if you are fed up with films about old people, e.g. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, just to mention one, you must see this fabulous film about – yes – old people. Cissy (Pauline Collins), Wilfred (Billy Connolly) and Cedric (Michael Gambon) live in Beecham House, a home for retired opera singers and musicians. It is splendid and music oozes out of every crevice. Along comes Jean (Maggie Smith) a diva formerly married to Reginold (Tom Courtenay). She creates quite a stir, and when it’s time to prepare for the annual concert on Verdi’s birthday, October 10, she refuses to sing the famous quartet from Rigoletto, “Bella figlia dell’amore.” She says, her “voice isn’t what it used to be.”
Beecham House is filmed in an authentic rest home called Hedsor House, Buckinhamshire, England, and was first mentioned in 1166. Verdi himself did build a rest home for singers and musicians, Casa di Reposo per Musicisti in Milan in 1896. The film is excellent for its one-liners (see some below), portrayal of the individual personalities, the lust for life and enjoyment of each day no matter what age. There are funny moments, serious problems, and throughout, the most marvellous music. Think FAME for 80-year-olds. Dustin Hoffman directed. It is based on the play Quartet by Ronald Harwood, who also wrote the screenplay. Go and have fun no matter your age.
Read no more if you want to be surprised, but I just couldn’t resist sharing these lines from the film: “Your singing brought tears to my ears.” “Old age is not for sissies, Cissy.” “I never took less than 12 curtain calls. “ “Opera is when a guy is stabbed in the back, then he sings; rap is when he’s stabbed in the back, then he talks.” “Why did I have to get old? That’s what people do.” “It’s not makeup, she needs, it’s a paperhanging job.” (Becky Tan)
- Starts January 24
- Original language: English
- Screenplay: Ronald Harwood
- Country: UK
- Length: 98 minutes