Posted May 11 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins - This Movie Rocks Off-Key

 Dir: Stephen Frears

Starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson

World’s finest actress plays world’s worst singer. Now that’s an irresistible combo surely? Well yes, in the hands of Stephen Frears and co, pretty much. La Streep is noted NY socialite Jenkins, riddled with syphilis from an unfortunate early marriage, but determined to patronise the arts during a chive-free war time.

But as well as funding the city’s art scene, Jenkins wants to be a part of it. Hence she sings. Not in any recognisable manner mind, but she seems not to notice. Her second sort of husband Grant makes sure this bubble is never burst, inveigling her new accompanist Helberg into the mix. All of which works well until she decides to buy out Carnegie Hall for a concert all her own.

Oh yeah, and it’s a true story.

And, in it’s telling here, a very warm and affectionate one. The film walks a fine line between finding Florence a creature of sincerity or a person of ridicule, and manages that fine line between showing us she is clearly the former, whilst balancing the reactions of those around her to see the latter. And Steep’s ability to convey all of the above is once again quite remarkable. It’s easy to see Jenkins and her vocal (in)ability as a joke. But Streep moves so far beyond that – quite brilliantly capturing the off key nature of Jenkins’ performances, but playing her with an almost childlike innocence and naiveté, made all the more powerful when she begins to see herself as the rest of the world does.

She is supported (in every sense of the word) in this sort of delusion by a never better Hugh Grant. He doesn’t work much these days, but when he does, damn but the man is fine! And we can easily see him on the list of Oscar noms next year, alongside the almost inevitable Meryl.

(Big Bang’s Helberg has also been earning good notices here for his role but we found his whole performance – frankly – just a little odd!)

A totally off-key tale that manages to be more or less note-perfect.


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