Tag Archives: Dustin Hoffman


We find three friends living in a nursing home for retired musicians. They have performed together, years ago, and remember those days fondly, but their days of entertaining are not quite over. The home puts on an annual show and everyone’s busy preparing for it, as well as preparing for a new resident – rumoured to be quite a star. And as she pulls up in a chauffeured car with her many furs and jewels, Maggie Smith is every inch a star.

The trio of friends is in upheaval – Cecily is ecstatic to reconnect with an old friend, but Reginald is angry to find his ex-wife now living in the same home. Reginald’s best friend and one-time best man Wilf (played by Billy Connolly) tries to keep the peace but soon they must all work together because age and failing health has jeopardized the show, and the quartet must replace the last act, currently hospitalized, to ensure enough money is raised to keep the home solvent for another year, although Jean (Smith) has vowed never to perform in public again.

Okay, so the plot is predictable. Will they sing together once again? Of course they will. We’d be watching four more amenable geezers otherwise. The meat of the movie is more in the subplot, the pain between Reginald and Jean and their heartbreak still palpable after all these years. The joy of this movie is seeing all of these musicians, in the “encore” of their lives, still burning with passion for their craft. Even with dementia creeping in, music is the last thing to be forgotten. Director Dustin Hoffman does a lovely job juxtaposing the ailing bodies with spirited music, arthritic fingers still finding all the right notes, voices cracking with age but still filled with dignity and resonance.

Of course Billy Connolly injects a lot of energy and charisma into the film, providing lots of light counterpoints. It’s an enjoyable film that gives you lots to admire. I particularly enjoyed that the supporting cast is made up of actual retired stage performers (check the credits for their past work). Oftentimes when watching a British film, it’s like watching a reunion of old friends. When Maggie Smith appeared, I was watching over her shoulder for Penelope Wilton, who never appeared, but the ghost of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a bit of a specter in this movie, and anyone who enjoyed that one will find satisfaction in Quartet.

p.s. If you enjoy this movie, and maybe even if you don’t, you should check out Young at Heart (2007), a documentary about an elderly chorus group who enjoys singing rock, punk, and all kinds of unexpected tunes. Really good stuff.


I spend a lot of my movie-watching time with old movies- “classics” as most DVD rental stores call them, so I thought I would post some online reviews of films that have been around longer than online reviews to see how well they hold up. This week I rented Richard Attenborough’s 1983 Academy Award for Best Picture Winner Gandhi, a movie I’ve always meant to see because I thought I “should” but never got around to. Maybe it was it’s 190 minute running time. But I sat through Interstellar twice over the last two weeks so I decided I was ready.

This is, of course, the story of Mohandas K Gandhi, who I’ll assume needs no introduction, beginning in South Africa in 1893 until his death in 1948. So, 55 years of history over 3 hours. Get comfortable.

What it’s lost with age. Or maybe this was always a problem. I was a year old when Gandhi was originally released and my parents wouldn’t take me to see it at the time as much as I begged. Watching it today though, I thought Attenborough’s perfectly understandable reverence for his subject might have gotten in the way. Gandhi is potrayed more as saint than complex human being and we never really understand why he did the things he did. I’m not usually one to complain about length but it is tough to hold an audience’s attention for three hours when the main character does nothing but humble and self-sacrificing things.

What still holds up. Gandhi is played by Ben Kingsley (Sir Ben now but back then I think it was just Ben). Ben won a well-deserved Oscar for the part, beating out Tootsie’s Dustin Hoffman who ironically turned down the chance to play Gandhi, making me shudder to think how bad this movie could have been. As both the young hopeful Gandhi and the exhausted and starving older one, Ben’s eyes, voice, and posture are almost perfect. His performance is by far the best reason to see this movie.

Nice surprise for modern audiences. Early in the film, Gandhi is stopped on the street and mocked by three young punks (although they probably wouldn’t have been called that in the 1800s). My first thought was “These guys are so over the top. They have to be the worst actors in the entire movie”. My second thought was “Is that Daniel Day-Lewis?” It was. I guess everybody has to start somewhere.

Bottom line. When I’m watching a movie about a real guy, I tend not to like movies that try to cover too much. 55 years is a lot and I would have liked a movie that focused on a smaller, more manageable window in greater detail. Still, the old school production (real human extras instead of CGI ones, for example) give you that “they don’t make ’em like this anymore” feeling. And then there’s those performances. Ben Kingsley at his best, Daniel Day-Lewis at his worst. Who could ask for more?

Rain Man

Sean and I watched Rain Man, me for the nine hundredth time, Sean for the first. The first!Can you believe that?rain

I’m not going to review it because I believe and I certainly hope that he’s the only idiot to have not appreciated this film until now. And he did appreciate it. This film holds up beautifully, except maybe for the synth over the opening credits. This movie could have gone wrong in a lot of ways, so I have to give credit to the brilliant director (Barry Levinson) who treated the subject so tenderly. He doesn’t go directly for the heart strings, he doesn’t’ cloud the relationship with a lot of outside help. He creates a bond and lets his two actors shine. And they do. The movie may be a little off-kilter in some places but Dustin Hoffman never is. His performance I think is the best of his career (the Academy agreed). Tom Cruise could easily have faded into the background of such a performance but instead he also delivers one of his best, a raw and unsentimental portrayal of a man deeply layered in pain, confusion, and selfishness. Despite the inherent heaviness, this movie manages to pull us in not with easy tears, but with well-earned laughs.

And so Sean’s education continues.


I liked this movie. I can forgive the saccharine subtext of the father-son roadtrip to reconnection because this movie is visceral and delicious and real. chef-movie

Brace yourself, Sean, because I’m about to pay Jon Favreau a compliment: he’s perfect as this chef. Really perfect. He’s fast-paced in the kitchen, ambling in the market, bumbling with his son.

This movie’s already available to rent or stream. It was passed to me by a friend who thought I’d like it, and I aimed to pass the recommendation along to another friend, only he beat me to it, which hasn’t happened since Snow Piercer (watch it). We watch A LOT of movies. About a metric tonne in the course of a normal week, and we talk about nearly all of them, but recommend very few.

Why did so many of us connect with this movie? The passion, maybe. You really believe in the love of food, the drive in your marrow to just cook food that will taste awesome. And you get a real sense of the struggle between the guy with the money, and the guy with the talent. Of course they clash. And there’s another struggle, between the chef, a man who dedicates his life to his kitchen but doesn’t know too much about life outside it, and the social media-enabled foodie culture that can prop him up or tear him down.

This movie definitely pays tribute to a certain amount of food porn, some of which already feels a bit dated (and I admit, I flinched, flinched, over the lava cake bit, having just served it to guests myself about a month ago). Scarlett Johansson is unnecessary in the movie and I can only imagine that Favreau was just looking for any excuse to kiss her (and who can blame him).

I loved the energy and pacing once we took to road in the food truck (another very on-point moment in food), even if it occasionally felt like a commercial for Twitter. John Leguizamo turns out to be a fun side kick. Robert Downey Junior appears out of nowhere. Or, you know, out of Favreau’s back pocket. But the whole mess just starts to feel fresh and real and relatable, no matter what you do for a living. You can’t help but feel his humiliation and then root for his redemption, and be tempted by his sandwiches.

The villain, a food blogger played by Oliver Platt, is kind of a great counterpoint to our protagonist chef. He becomes our scape goat for all the internet bullies, and there’s a not-so-subtle plea for a return to humanity, or civility, or fucking politesse. Even a big tattooed chef has feelings, and you can’t eat all of them away no matter how good the food.

So yes. The ending’s trite, but the passion’s back in his life, he’s rejuvenated, we’re rejuvenated just watching him spark. It’s great. It’s fun. It’s making me bloody hungry.