Florence Foster Jenkins

"Excellent"

Florence Foster Jenkins Review


Although this comedy-drama seems to have been written specifically to give Meryl Streep a chance to dress up and put on a silly show, it's actually all true. And it's hugely entertaining, generating gut-wrenching laughter and some sharply resonant emotions too. It's also a subtle exploration of pop culture, most notably privileged artists and the fact that there's more to stardom than just talent.

Streep shines as Florence, a socialite who hosts lavish parties in 1944 New York with her husband St Clair (Hugh Grant). Both of them are frustrated artists: Florence sees herself as an opera diva, while St Clair never quite made it as an actor. So at her parties, Florence puts on performances for her friends, oblivious to the fact that she's riotously off-key, while St Clair plays the doting husband, protecting her from criticism and hiring talented young pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) as her accompanist. Florence doesn't really mind that St Clair has a woman (Rebecca Ferguson) on the side. But when she books Carnegie Hall to perform a concert for troops returning from Europe, St Clair realises that he can't protect her from a real audience.

Writer Nicholas Martin and director Stephen Frears construct the story beautifully, building up to reveal Florence's voice in a painfully hilarious sequence that's expertly played by Streep, Grant and Helberg. Streep's enjoyment of the role is infectious, and she makes Florence sympathetic by letting us see her yearning to sing. She imagines she sounds like her operatic idols, so can't hear the strangled notes coming from her mouth. And those who don't applaud are laughing so heartily that surely they're just as entertained. Streep's performance soars through the performance scenes, but is just as powerful in the comedy and at moments when Florence is vulnerable and nervous.

Meanwhile, Grant has an effortless charm that also finds layers in his professional and personal frustration. And Helberg gives a wonderful scene-stealing turn that's far against his Big Bang Theory type (Frankly, Cosme deserves his own movie). This is such a colourful, big-hearted film that it can't help but win over the audience. Even as it plays Florence's singing for laughs, this is a surprisingly warm portrait that has genuine emotional kicks in the way it explores everyone's need for love, loyalty and respect. And then of course there's the film's timely relevance in an era when there are so many talent competition shows on TV. And when the pop music charts are full of artists who actually can't sing a note.

Rich Cline

Watch the trailer for Florence Foster Jenkins:



Florence Foster Jenkins

Facts and Figures

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th August 2016

Distributed by: BBC Films

Production compaines: Qwerty Films, Pathé Pictures International

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 7

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Florence Foster Jenkins, as St. Clair Bayfield, as Kathleen, as Cosme McMoon, as Agnes Stark, as Arturo Toscanini

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