|year: 2013 cast: Maggie Smith, Billy Connelly, Tom Courtenay rating: *1/2|
Throughout a very crowded house of crooning and/or instrument playing old timers, the first fifteen minutes consists of Billy Connelly’s sexually motivated Wilf Bond flirting with every female, spouting the best dialog because everyone else has little to nothing to say. That includes Tom Courtenay's Reginald Paget, who only really comes to life after his ex wife Jean Horton, a former opera star played by Maggie Smith, becomes a resident.
Part of the film's description is very misleading: “...The annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva.” For one thing, Jean is hardly a diva. That would have been humorously edgy and interesting. She’s actually quite mellow and introverted. Her only fault is stalking Paget on the grounds, but only because he wants nothing to do with her, yet they eventually connect and talk about the past.
It’s difficult to relate to who they were since we never get to know them in the present. And eventually the plot’s underway: one of the residents wants the quartet, including the three characters mentioned and Pauline Collins as the ever-optimistic Cissy, to reunite. Horton (Smith) angrily balks until it’s decided to proceed, after which the show goes on with somewhat predictable results.
First time director Dustin Hoffman does effectively wield creative shots in the gorgeous English exterior, but on the inside there’s little story to make the characters as worthwhile as they music they dedicated their lives to.