Things at the well-appointed country estate for retired musicians are about to be shaken up by new resident, but with a bit of understanding, it all gets sorted out. That's Quartet in a nutshell, but you won't be seeing Dustin Hoffman's light, cozy comedy, adapted from Ronald Harwood's play, for the plot. The film boasts an A-list of gracefully aging British actors — Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly — as well as a deep back bench of lesser-known opera singers, classical musicians and assorted performers (including "Manuel" from Fawlty Towers).
There's some piffle about a benefit concert, which lets Hoffman slip in some musical numbers, and a not-particularly-melodramatic subplot about an operatic quartet long ago fractured by romantic failings. (Courtenay and Smith are the still-aggrieved parties.) These characters all exist in one of those rarefied, tightly curtailed British bubbles (similar to last year's Exotic Marigold Hotel) where the rest of the world, and much of modern life, barely seem to intrude. But what of reality in a home for the aged and theatrical? The film's pleasures are in seeing old friends bantering, sniping and simpering, as well as celebrating the game supporting players, who are still warbling and trilling away after all these years.