For his directing debut, Dustin Hoffman takes no chances, filling the screen with gifted actors who are working from an intelligent script. So even if it's essentially a rather flimsy little drama that never really stretches the talented cast, there's plenty to like along the way. And Hoffman makes sure that we enjoy ourselves, inserting some sparky humour and a bit of romantic comedy to keep us smiling.
It takes place in a stately home for retired British musicians, which is planning its annual fundraising gala. Then iconic soprano Joan (Smith) arrives, and the gala's diva-like director (Gambon) decides to reunite the quartet known for a famed performance of Verdi's Rigoletto. The other three have long been residents: womanising Wilf (Connolly) and ditzy Cissy (Collins) are up for it, but Reggie (Courtenay) has never recovered after his marriage to Jean failed decades ago. Of course, everyone connives to get Jean and Reggie to talk to each other, but getting Jean to come out of retirement to sing again is an even more daunting task.
Aside from the central theme of second chances, there isn't much to this film beyond watching a group of superb veteran actors have a lot of fun on screen together. As the swishy ringleader, Gambon camps it up hilariously, even as everyone else ignores him. Connolly gleefully chomps on Wilf's innuendo-filled dialogue, and Collins radiates warmth. While Sheridan Smith surprises with a strong turn as the doctor in residence. This leaves Smith and Courtenay with the script's only meaty scenes, and they make finding the raw honesty in these wounded people look easy.
In fact, everything about the film looks easy, as it slides by without a hitch. Hoffman even undercuts the sentimentality with quiet moments of wit, including the kind of pithy one-liners Smith must mutter in her sleep. All of this combines to paint a lovely portrait of a bunch of retirees who have a lot of life in them yet. None of the characters is ready to give up. And we have a feeling that none of the actors is either.
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st March 2013
Box Office USA: $18.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $57.1M
Distributed by: The Weinstein Co.
Production compaines: Headline Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 107 Rotten: 28
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Dustin Hoffman
Producer: Finola Dwyer, Stewart Mackinnon
Screenwriter: Ronald Harwood
Starring: Maggie Smith as Jean Horton, Tom Courtenay as Reginald Paget, Billy Connolly as Wilf Bond, Pauline Collins as Cissy Robson, Michael Gambon as Cedric Livingston, Sheridan Smith as Dr. Lucy Cogan