Friday, 5 May 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2012: Tom Courtenay in Quartet

Tom Courtenay did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Reginald "Reg" Paget in Quartet.

Quartet is a tad cornball film about an aging quartet of opera singers coming back together to sing in a concert to save their retirement home for musicians.

Tom Courtenay has fairly recently began reappearing in films after disappearing almost for the entirety of the seventies, purposefully apparently to focus on the stage, after his stellar run in sixties. Courtenay began some sparse appearances though but now is having regular appearances again. Well that is much appreciated to see Courtenay in films again particularly in this film. This film overall just lays on the cheese a little thickly through the unfortunately somewhat cloying performances of some of the cast, and the choices by director Dustin Hoffman to treat perhaps everything a little too lightly. Thankfully there is Courtenay to add a bit of grumpiness to the film, and actually what I mean by that is more realistic grumpiness not sort of that, sweet grumpiness that would be quite intolerable in this film. Courtenay actually bothers to try to infuse any pathos into the proceedings through his depiction of Reg's disposition from hearing that his former wife, Jean (Maggie Smith), is coming to live at the retirement home as well.

Courtenay is actually willing to take the further step as in his initial reactions to see her and in his repeated refusals to even speak to her for a more than a few words. Courtenay in these moments does not sweeten this by any mean offering some real anguish within his harsh turns away, and years of holding a grudge in his cold refusals. Reg's attitude comes from Jean having cheated on him many years ago and Courtenay actually conveys that sense of betrayal in these interactions. He grants them though, even in the initial reaction, more complexity than that. In that Courtenay is able to express the sort of particular sort of damage within Reg's view. As Courtenay expresses the past affection within the current bitterness. Courtenay attempts to actually convey the years of holding this in through these scenes something that is sorely lacking in the other problems depicted by most of the other cast members which are boiled down to basically a cutesy eccentricity.

The film though perhaps wish to get their leads in on the goofiness of the elements outside of them, Courtenay in a scene where Reg is trying to teach opera to hip teenagers. Courtenay though manages to keep his dignity intact with this scene, and even offer a bit of dignity to the film in the process. Courtenay does this by offering just the right quiet passion in his delivery as he speaks of the power of opera, and as well even makes the right mild curiosity not seem ridiculous when the conversation turns to rap. The same goes for a scene where Reg curses out one of the employees of the retirement home which is all set up to be overly cloying but Courtenay actually delivers the insults with enough venom to keep from being so. Courtenay strives to find some reality in the situation and develop a character with Reg not just a set of quirks of an older person. Courtenay succeeds in this even when the film battles him at every turn.

The most severe challenge in this regard is perhaps in Reg's forgiveness of Jean which feels sort of rushed. It isn't quite dealt with as one would imagine it should be either, they just kind of work through it. This is all done rather quickly with little to no major problems. Courtenay to his credit once again though does make it work though by in those cold scenes suggesting again that underlying affection and just slowly showing that comes out again. He makes it a natural progression mainly through his performance and through his chemistry with Smith which is endearing enough. The film though is in a rush to get to his disappointing ending, where obviously they shouldn't have made it about opera singers. Courtenay's performance here made me wish he had given a part with more depth because he does find depth in what is a paper thin role. He does his best to bring the best out of the material. I wish he was in a better film but I will say he made this a better film through his performance.


Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast.

I'm glad I've won this prediction contest. :)

Charles Heiston said...

I expected at least a 4.5. But happy it's still a positive rating.

I'm looking forward to the supporting line-up.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: My request is Mads Mikkelsen in Pusher II.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: I'm not sure if we'll get a full lineup but hopefully the others will come up with some ideas.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: I have some ideas. But not a full five.

Louis Morgan said...

Also just behind the review note, is I originally started this as a combined review with Terence Stamp in Song For Marion, but upon checking the release date that's a 2013 performance so that's why he won't be in the updated overall.


Gambon - 2.5(His performance there gets the job done well enough as the insufferable organizer but it's pretty forgettable work from him.)

Connolly - 2(I liked parts of this performance but a little of it went a very long way. The problem is the more there was of his wacky womanizing ways the more he seemed to become more and more a cartoon. It just became too much after awhile and he became one of the corniest elements of the film.)

Collins - 2(The same goes to Collins in portraying her character's dementia which became quite tiresome if not rather problematic in playing it in such a cloying way. There are times where it works but again like Connolly a little of it goes a very long way.)

Smith - 4(I was concerned that this was going to be only her post-Gosford Park type performance, which unfortunately she has become a bit pigeonholed by. Now she's good at that and she's good here when she needs to do her incisive remarks routine. More is asked of her though and Smith delivers as per usual quite honestly.)

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Aw Man, I was looking forward to Stamp. At least you'll hopefully review him for 2013 as a bonus.

Charles Heiston said...

Will the overall be out tonight or tomorrow?

Luke Higham said...

My suggestions for supporting.
Thomas Bo Larsen in The Hunt
Bradley Whitford & Richard Jenkins in The Cabin In The Woods
Ice Cube in 21 Jump Street
Cillian Murphy in Broken

Luke Higham said...

And if you're willing to give it another try then Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike.

Charles Heiston said...

My suggestions would be:

Thomas Bo Larsen - The Hunt
Cillian Murphy - Broken
Simon Russell Beale - The Deep Blue Sea
Ronald Cheng - Vulgaria(This one is a riot, he won the Hong Kong film award too.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Hate to break it to you, but The Deep Blue Sea is 2011 and Beale was suggested by quite a few people for that year. Weisz might be the reason why he didn't watch it.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: I figured that. i just heard some rave about Beale. I can't really figure a lot of worthy people for the year. Past the other three i mentioned.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I'll replace Ice Cube with Cheung.

Luke Higham said...