Skip to main content

This is not a retirement home, this is a madhouse!


Quartet
(2012)

I’m fully behind the rise of OAP cinema, if there actually is a nascent subgenre forming (see also The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Or should I say, British OAP cinema (I’m not including Amour, which is a chin-stroking affair for middle-aged types). I don’t know if the appeal is a nostalgic twinge for the days of ruling classes and Empire (the British in India, the cultural hierarchy of opera), a desire to see an assembly of the great and good of British thespdom, or simply of movies catering for certain age groups so rarely. But the fact that these films have been sizeable hits suggests there’s a sizeable gap in the market waiting to be plugged.

So it’s a shame that this dramedy about concert put on by a retirement home for musicians is so laboured. The scenario is acutely artificial (apparently Verdi founded such an establishment in Italy, but its occupants are generally not in the fine fettle we see here, and most likely they don’t reside in such opulent surroundings), and as such it encourages a population of larger-than-life characters to act out theatrically broad and melodramatic scenarios. There’s never any doubt that the home will make the money it needs, nor that the contrived estrangement between two of the leads will end in reconciliation. Sometimes this kind of approach wins through despite itself, the pleasure deriving from the sheer familiarity of it all. But this one just plods along.

As you'd expect, the home is populated by quirky, loveable, idiosyncratic luvvies. The quartet comprises Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly. The first three deliver expectedly solid performances, Collins proving particularly appealing with her dottily palatable version of onset dementia. And Michael Gambon has fun as the resident grouch. Sheridan Smith is completely unconvincing as the anti-Nurse Ratched, who cheerfully indulges her patients little foibles (hers is the Dev Patel youthful part). Connolly does his usual thing as the recovering stroke victim who gives voice to his every rascally randiness. I’ve a lot of time for the ever charming comedian, but he fails to convince both physically and vitally here. You still expect him to go leaping round the room at any moment (director Dustin Hoffman originally offered the role to Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole). Everyone gets their own comic/dramatic moment (aren't swearing pensioners adorable?), but at a pace that is not so much lethargic as comatose.

It’s all very genial, spineless and heartwarming. Particularly unconvincing is Courtney explaining how rap is kind-of like opera to a group of surprisingly credulous school kids. No doubt Robin Williams would be employed for this in US version of the film, but it’s no less patronising or desperate in its attempt to claim relevance for opera (Courtney delivers a monologue on how the upper classes appropriated the performing art for themselves). Director Dustin Hoffman never makes the stage origins less than obvious (Ronald Harwood adapted his own play). The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is no less of a fantasyland piece, but it has a genuine spring in its step and so manages to muster significantly more goodwill.

** 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

This isn't fun, it's scary and disgusting.

It (2017)
(SPOILERS) Imagine how pleased I was to learn that an E Nesbitt adaptation had rocketed to the top of the US charts, evidently using a truncated version of its original title, much like John Carter of Mars. Imagine my disappointment on rushing to the cinema and seeing not a Psammead in sight. Can anyone explain why It is doing such phenomenal business? It isn’t the Stephen King brand, which regular does middling-at-best box office. Is it the nostalgia factor (‘50s repurposed as the ‘80s, so tapping into the Stranger Things thing, complete with purloined cast member)? Or maybe that it is, for the most part, a “classier” horror movie, one that puts its characters first (at least for the first act or so), and so invites audiences who might otherwise shun such fare? Perhaps there is no clear and outright reason, and it’s rather a confluence of circumstances. Certainly, as a (mostly) non-horror buff, I was impressed by how well It tackled pretty much everything that wasn’t the hor…

Imagine a plant that could think... Think!

The Avengers 4.12: Man-Eater of Surrey Green
Most remarked upon for Robert Banks-Stewart having “ripped it off” for 1976 Doctor Who story The Seeds of Doom, although, I’ve never been wholly convinced. Yes, there are significant similarities – an eccentric lady making who knows her botany, a wealthy businessman living in a stately home with an affinity for vegetation, an alien plant that takes possession of humans, a very violent henchman and a climax involving a now oversized specimen turning very nasty… Okay, maybe they’re onto something there… – but The Seeds of Doom is really good, while Man-Eater of Surrey Green is just… okay.

You better watch what you say about my car. She's real sensitive.

Christine (1983)
(SPOILER) John Carpenter was quite open about having no particular passion to make Christine. The Thing had gone belly-up at the box office, and adapting a Stephen King seemed like a sure-fire way to make bank. Unfortunately, its reception was tepid. It may have seemed like a no-brainer – Duel’s demonic truck had put Spielberg on the map a decade earlier – but Carpenter discoveredIt was difficult to make it frightening”. More like Herbie, then. Indeed, the director is at his best in the build-up to unleashing the titular automobile, making the fudging of the third act all the more disappointing.

Don't worry about Steed, ducky. I'll see he doesn't suffer.

The Avengers 4.11: Two’s A Crowd
Oh, look. Another Steed doppelganger episode. Or is it? One might be similarly less than complimentary about Warren Mitchell dusting off his bungling Russian agent/ambassador routine (it obviously went down a storm with the producers; he previously played Keller in The Charmers and Brodny would return in The See-Through Man). Two’s A Crowd coasts on the charm of its leads and supporting performances (including Julian Glover), but it’s middling fare at best.

It could have been an accident. He decided to sip a surreptitious sup and slipped. Splash!

4.10 A Surfeit of H20
A great episode title (definitely one of the series’ top ten) with a storyline boasting all the necessary ingredients (strange deaths in a small village, eccentric supporting characters, Emma even utters the immortal “You diabolical mastermind, you!”), yet A Surfeit of H20 is unable to quite pull itself above the run of the mill.

Believe me, our world is a lot less painful than the real world.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
(SPOILERS) I’d heard Marmite things about Tom Ford’s sophomore effort (I’ve yet to catch his debut), but they were enough to make me mildly intrigued. Unfortunately, I ended up veering towards the “I hate” polarity. Nocturnal Animals is as immaculately shot as you’d expect from a fashion designer with a meticulously unbuttoned shirt, but its self-conscious structure – almost that of a poseur – never becomes fluid in Ford’s liberal adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel, such that even its significantly stronger aspect – the film within the film (or novel within the film) – is diminished by the dour stodge that surrounds it.

Have no fear! Doc Savage is here!

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
(SPOILERS) Forget about The Empire Strikes Back, the cliffhanger ending of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze had me on the edge of my seat for a sequel that never came. How could they do that to us (well, me)? This was of course, in the period prior to discernment and wisdom, when I had no idea Doc Savage was a terrible movie. I mean, it is, isn’t it? Well, it isn’t a great movie, but it has a certain indolent charm, in the manner of a fair few mid-‘70s SF and fantasy fare (Logan’s Run, The Land that Time Forgot) that had no conception the genre landscape was on the cusp of irrevocable change.

Let the monsters kill each other.

Game of Thrones Season Seven
(SPOILERS) Column inches devoted to Game of Thrones, even in “respectable” publications, seems to increase exponentially with each new season, so may well reach critical mass with the final run. Groundswells of opinion duly become more evident, and as happens with many a show by somewhere around this point, if not a couple of years prior, Season Seven has seen many of the faithful turn on once hallowed storytelling, and at least in part, there’s good reason for that.

Some suggest the show has jumped the shark (or crashed the Wall); there were concerns over how much the pace increased last year, divested as it was of George RR Martin’s novels as a direct source, but this year’s succession of events make Six seem positively sluggish. I don’t think GoT has suddenly, resoundingly, lost it, and I’d argue there did need to be an increase in momentum (people are quick to forget how much moaning went on about seemingly nothing happening for long stretches of previ…

James Bond, who only has to make love to a woman and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing.