Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson
Based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice. (Source: IMDB)
I watched this movie immediately after Bad Neighbours 2 (you can read my review here), and it felt like a real palette cleanser, a joyfully entertaining film, with wonderful central performances and a great deal of heart.
The performances in this film were the standout thing for me. Meryl Streep is glorious as the central character; Streep can actually sing very well, so to pull off singing so badly does have to be commended, and she really milks it for all its worth! Hugh Grant gives his best performance in years as Florence’s husband St. Clair Bayfield, with great emotional depth, and a surprisingly excellent dance number to boot. As young pianist Cosmé McMoon, I was finally able to see Simon Helberg as someone other than Howard Wolowitz! He gives a great comedic performance, and in one particular scene where he first hears Florence sing, a plethora of emotions appear across his face, and it’s quite simply brilliant!
Indeed this film is very funny, although expect warm chuckles as opposed to huge belly laughs. Underneath the fun and upbeat music though, there is a really beautiful story of mental illness and frailty, and by the end, much like Florence’s audiences, you’ll find yourself applauding her spirit rather than laughing at her terrible singing. It’s really interesting watching this shift happen, and yet the film still maintains its sense of fun.
This is more a reflection on how this film was marketed than the film itself, but I did feel at times, Florence’s frailty and struggles with illness were masked under chirpiness, and a relentlessly upbeat score. The trailer for it makes it seem like a hilarious comedy, and indeed it is very funny in places, but there are moments where we shouldn’t be laughing at Florence but yet it is difficult not to when we have prior expectations for what this film would be.
I would’ve liked a bit more focus on Florence’s struggles, particularly with her mental health. She has created this world around her where everyone tells her she is wonderful and she totally believes she can sing, and the movie comes across like its her incredible wealth which allows her to live out her fantasies but yet seemingly ignores the severity of her delusions and the impact it has on those in her world. I think tonally this could’ve made for a very different film, so I do understand why they went for the tone they did, but I think it could’ve added an interesting extra layer.
I saw this movie and you should too. Based on the trailer, I expected to laugh, but I didn’t expect to cry! Florence Foster Jenkins is gloriously charming, funny, and heartwarming. Grant gives his best performance in years and Streep is an absolute delight. Brava! Bravissima!
Agree with everything I’ve said or am I a totally misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Let me know in the comments below!