Old musicians — they have the best insults.
“Your singing brought tears — to my ears.”
“I can't forget you in ‘Carmen.' But I'll try.”
The retired musicians at Britain's Beecham House may not have the cash or relatives to ensure they pass their last years at home. But they still have their wit, their love of rehearsal and the fading vestiges of their talent.
That's the setting for Dustin Hoffman's dainty, adorable and adorably predictable film of Ronald Harwood's play. It's a celebration of great old actors set in a world of once-great singers, and Hoffman's affection for them and the material shows in every frame.
Dame Maggie Smith plays the diva among divas, Jean Horton. The ancient, imperious Jean, “as large as life, and twice as terrifying,” is new to Beecham. And that creates a stir.
Cissy (Pauline Collins, delightful) was Jean's forgetfully addled supporting player in many an opera. And the old skirt chaser Wilfred (Billy Connolly, too young for his part but a hoot) knew her well, too.
That's because his best friend, Reginald the tenor (Tom Courtenay), used to be married to her. Jean is the last person Reginald wants to see as “dignified senility” sets in.
Hoffman doesn't break the mold, shock or awe anyone with his treatment of this comfort-food comedy. But he does celebrate veteran entertainers, their vanities, foibles and undying passion for their art.
— Roger Moore,
Starring: Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Michael Gambon. (Brief strong language and suggestive humor)