With the arrival of soprano par-excellence Jean Horton (Smith), the fourth member of a famous quartet, the home is sent into a frenzy. The trio of singers already at the home are particularly perturbed, especially ex-husband Reg (Tom Courtenay), who still harbours a grudge for her leaving him many years ago. Undoubtedly, this small drama set in the upper class word of operatic retirement (each character waltzing towards their own Danse Macabre), will find a ready audience in older cinemagoers.
Whilst it carries a pleasing note throughout, the film is hoisted by its own petard, since the climax of the film hangs on whether the four singers of yesteryear will perform. Knowing that the four leads are not renowned for their musical talent (has anyone ever heard Maggie Smith perform Verdi's La Traviata?) the audience will be wondering how Hoffman is going to pull off the ending. In the end it is handled as best it can be, but is ultimately an unsatisfying experience.
It's the unfolding of the four leads' personal stories that still make this picture good entertainment. Aside from the late-in-life courtship between Smith's temperamental Jean and Courtenay's strong turn as the growing-old-with-grace Reg, there is a delightfully ditsy performance from Pauline Collins who ultimately steals the show. An entertaining journey with a great cast, Hoffman's Quartet does seem to end up being all too comfortable with itself.
This review was originally published on 16 October, 2012, as part of our London Film Festival coverage.