Wealthy New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins has gone down in history as the worst opera singer in the world. Yet in Stephen Frears’ tender, warm-hearted biopic starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant she proves to be far more than a figure of fun.
The film finds hilarity in Florence’s awfulness as a singer, but it also finds something admirable about her pursuit of her musical dreams in 1940s Manhattan.
A typically droll Hugh Grant plays Florence’s loyal partner, St Clair Bayfield, the failed English actor who manages her amateur career; and The Big Bang Theory (opens in new tab)’s Simon Helberg is her naïve piano accompanist, Cosmé McMoon, who can’t believe his ears when he first hears Florence sing.
As the story builds towards Florence’s legendary Carnegie Hall concert of 1944, the film proves surprisingly gripping as well as uproariously funny. Streep, as you would expect, is a joy. She reproduces the hideous racket Florence made with impressive fidelity, yet she also gives us moving insight into the heartaches and tragedies that lay behind the heiress’s burning desire to perform.
Florence couldn’t hit the right note with a blunderbuss. Streep’s performance is pitch perfect.
Certificate PG. Runtime 106 mins. Director Stephen Frears
Florence Foster Jenkins is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD.
A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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