Florence Foster Jenkins, an heiress from NYC, always wanted to be a concert pianist and play Carnegie Hall. An injury in her youth deterred that dream, so she sets out to sing her way to Carnegie Hall, knowing the only way to get there would be, "Practice, practice, practice". Her husband supports her venture, and Florence Foster Jenkins' performance at Carnegie Hall becomes a truly historic event.Written by
Surely only those with some knowledge of musical history and consequently at least some love of music, or perhaps a penchant for eccentricity like myself, will ever have heard of Florence Foster Jenkins, reputedly the world's worst singer, so without a ready-made audience why a biopic now, (two, if you count the new French film "Marguerite")? Maybe someone somewhere saw in this tale of a deluded grande dame a star vehicle for a talented actress of a certain age as well as an audience-pleasing combination of comedy and pathos and that's exactly what you get. No real knowledge of the subject is necessary to enjoy Stephen Frears' hugely enjoyable biopic "Florence Foster Jenkins" which combines comedy, pathos and a close to career best performance from Meryl Streep, (who else), to terrific effect and if you think Streep can play anything, in her sleep if necessary, pause a moment. On a technical level she may be the most versatile actress in the world but much too often she's been accused of failing to connect on an emotional level. I've always felt her Margaret Thatcher a great piece of mimicry but hardly worthy of a third Oscar and there are those who will claim that her Florence Foster Jenkins is nothing more than a shameless ploy for that elusive fourth Oscar. I will simply say that if she is to win that fourth Oscar surely it has to be for this great performance. Streep clicks on every level; this a tragic-comic performance of the first water in which Meryl never puts a foot wrong and yes, technically it's a marvel too with Streep doing her own appallingly off-key singing, (no mean feat for an actress with a superb voice). This isn't just the best thing she's done since "Doubt" but one of the best things she's ever done.
Amazingly it isn't all a one-woman show; the big revelation here is Hugh Grant as Jenkins' husband, the man who loves her, you might say exploits her, and does his best to protect her. It's the least Hugh Grant-like performance of his career and he's never been better. Likewise "The Big Bang Theory's" Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon, Jenkins' accompanist, is outstanding in a difficult role. It's also beautifully written by Nicholas Martin, looks great, (the period detail is spot on), and is very well directed by Frears. As we head into the silly season of superhero blockbusters and the kind of of films designed to keep the kids quiet in the summer months this splendid biography may be the last good movie we will see at our multiplexes for months.
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