What it's about:
The story of American socialite, Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who realised her long-delayed musical ambitions of becoming an opera singer, despite her poor singing ability. Taking voice lessons, mixing in musical social circles and funding a club in New York, it was there that she dreamed of entertaining audiences.
What we thought:
We’ve all heard Meryl Streep sing before, but nothing like this. The Academy Award winning actress pulled out all the stops to sound like a trapped creature screeching and howling at the top of its lungs. And as always, she’s simply brilliant.
It’s not just the really good bad singing that makes Streep’s performance outstanding, but also her tender approach to portray the character with heart, vulnerability and childlike innocence. She endears the character to the viewer which makes it really hard for you to laugh at her.
Loosely based on the life of socialite turned opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins the film focuses on her preparation for a concert at Carnegie Hall.
Hugh Grant plays St. Clair Bayfield, Jenkins’ protective common law husband.
A one-time actor he has pushed his ambitions aside to indulge her love for music and performance. He bribes critics and persuades sympathetic socialites to attend her very private concerts.
Their marriage is an ‘unconventional’ one as he keeps a mistress (Rebecca Ferguson) which his wife knows about. Jenkins contracted syphilis from her first husband, the pair do not have a sexual relationship but Bayfield’s love and affection for his wife is very genuine.
Grant delivers an outstanding performance of a complex character. He fiercely protects his wife against mockers; he supports her unwavering and tenderly cares for her during her illness while fighting his own inner battles of a failed actor.
Rounding off the cast is Jenkins’ pianist Cosme McMoon played by Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg, who is a classically trained pianist.
One of the funniest scenes in the film is his reaction to Jenkins’ singing when he first hears her sing. He is delightful to watch as uncontained laughter overcomes him.
The stand out parts of his performance comes when he learns to get to know Jenkins and grows to genuinely like her. He goes from being embarrassed by her to standing proudly next to her at Carnegie Hall.
The film glosses over deeper themes like privilege – money certainly can trump anything even genuine talent in the 1940s society circles.
Despite the film's little faults it is the strong performances that make this bittersweet tragic tale worth the watch.
Go watch this movie even if it’s just to hear Meryl Streep's really bad singing.
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