Quartet Movie Review
Rhys -- reinvented here as Isabelle Adjani's wide-eyed Marya Zelli -- found her husband, an illegal art dealer, arrested and thrown into prison. Suddenly broke, she shacked up with a pair of Brits of questionable morality, eventually getting cut loose, whereupon she would become a professional writer.
James Ivory and Ismail Merchant attempt to turn this strange story into a romance of sorts, with a hapless Adjani adrift in society without a net as she encounters various perverts and fends off the attentions of H.J. (Alan Bates), the man of the house (which lady of the house Lois (Maggie Smith) tolerates).
Quartet is so scattershot that it's hard to really get into. And Marya has no way out of her predicament -- with no money and no ability to work, she has absolutely no hope at all -- so how are we supposed to root for her? Because she's pretty? Bates and Smith make for archetypal crusty British types, to the point where they border on cliche.
Some of Quartet works, as the title is made clear by Marya's visit to her husband in prison, but even this drama isn't built up well enough. Ivory -- as is common in his early work -- spends far too long setting the mood and ensuring every costume is "just so" and not enough building the story. That's probably a failing of the book's inability to be properly adapted into a film, but that doesn't make it a good movie. Frankly, you'll find much better works from the Merchant-Ivory collection.
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