Dustin Hoffman has assembled a stellar cast of British theatrical legends (past and future) for his directorial debut. Indeed, there is more cast than movie.
The obvious would be to say how strange it is that New York method actor should chose to make his directorial debut with a very British stage adaptation of a slight tale about residents in a home for retired Opera stars and musicians. In fact it is perfectly logical — Hoffman could comfortably out-luvvie any brigade RADA might chose to send against him.
The film is all about an adoration of performing and performers and it holds its cast in such esteem that it mostly considers it unseemly to have them do anything.
Just occasionally there is the slightest nudge towards a plot. Ronald Harwood's adaptation of his own stage play is about the reconciliation between Tom Courtney and his former wife, Maggie Smith, and subsequent attempts persuading her to perform the quartet from Rigoletto at a prestigious gala event.
Hoffman once had a fearful reputation as a 'difficult' perfectionist but here he guides his cast with a relaxed and indulgent hand.
Often scenes appear to drift on simply because he is enjoying what the performers are doing in it. It is like a school performance played out in front of an audience of adoring parents.
His film does though bear out his indulgence. Some of the cast coast lazily through it but some – Courtney and Pauline Collins in particular – come up with some magical moments. You would really have to have set your face against it not to be won over at least a little by this lazy, genial film.
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Directed: Dustin Hoffman
Starring: Tom Courtney, Maggie Smith, Billy Connelly, Pauline Collins, Sheridan Smith, Andrew Sachs and Michael Gambon