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United Kingdom, 2012, 97 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Comedy, DramaLanguage: English
DIRECTOR: Dustin Hoffman
Producer: Finola Dwyer, Stewart MackinnonEditor: Barney PillingScreenwriter: Ronald HarwoodCinematographer: John de BormanPrincipal Cast: Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly, Sheridan Smith, Pauline Collins
Making his directing debut at age 75, Dustin Hoffman brings an optimistic take on aging to this dramatic comedy about a houseful of retired—but still very much kicking—theater folk. They’re busy preparing the annual Verdi gala, a musical evening to raise money for the palatial British country estate where they live, sing, and play classical music all day long. (The sumptuous interiors and sprawling grounds of Hedsor House in Taplow, England, called Beecham House here, were featured in the 2007 fantasy/adventure film The Golden Compass.)
When haughty elderly diva Jean Horton (Maggie Smith) arrives, there’s suddenly the possibility for four former colleagues to reunite to sing the famous quartet from Rigoletto, but Jean’s not interested. Complicating her attitude is the presence of her first husband, Reginald Paget (Tom Courtenay), who has never forgiven her for an indiscretion on the very day of their wedding years earlier. Underlying the emotional drama is Wilf Bond’s (Scottish comic Billy Connolly) shameless pursuit of the establishment’s cheery and attractive Dr. Lucy Cogan (Sheridan Smith). Warmhearted and charmingly dotty Sissy (Pauline Collins) completes the quartet. The tale reaches its fairy-tale conclusion to the soaring notes of Verdi.
Screenwriter Ronald Harwood adapted his own 1999 stage play for the film. The examination of how performers cope with being nudged out of the spotlight as they age was key in the 1984 documentary Tosca’s Kiss, which inspired the play. Harwood has won numerous awards for his work, including an Oscar in 2002 for The Pianist. Dario Marianelli’s rich score and an ensemble of accomplished musicians enrich the action from start to finish. An end-credits slide show recounts the accomplishments of the star-studded cast.
- JULIET SHERWOOD
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