Florence Foster Jenkins: Film Review

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I knew nothing about the real Florence Foster Jenkins and it’s hard to believe her story is actually true. I love it when films shed light on something you would otherwise have no idea about and what a cute little story this is too.

Meryl Streep is Florence, the real-life wealthy socialite who has surrounded herself with people who tell her she is a fabulous singer, including her husband St. Clair (Hugh Grant). She grew up wanting to perform and will not let her illness stop her from achieving her dreams. She hosts concerts, which St. Clair packs out with friends and paid-off critics, until she puts on her own show at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall and discovers what the general public and actual critics truly think of her ‘talent’.

We all know Meryl Streep can sing so it is very entertaining to watch her open her mouth and hear this awful sound come out. It must have been difficult to be that bad. She’s not even a little bit terrible – it hurts to listen to after a while, especially when she goes for the high notes.

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Although it is fun to laugh at Florence, you can’t help but feel sorry for her because she is ill and deluded and everybody is helping her live a lie. The film has a bittersweet quality to it where you’re doubled up laughing at her voice in one moment then feeling bad about it the next because she truly believes she can sing. It is also sad that her marriage to St. Clair is a loving and affectionate one, but not an intimate one. It sometimes feels like he is there out of duty and would rather be with his other woman.

Grant hasn’t done much of late and he did a decent job as his usual posh British self (although he has seriously aged). Meryl is fantastic as always but the best performances for me were actually the supporting ones. Simon Helberg, best known as Howard in The Big Bang Theory, is adorable as this softly-spoke pianist Cosme McMoon, who struggles between his musical reputation and his friendship with Florence. Then there is the wonderful Rebecca Ferguson, who is St. Clair’s partner. She understands why he won’t leave Florence, but it doesn’t mean she’s happy about it. I was impressed by her emotional performance.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a lovely and charming film but it is forgettable and far too long. It is a good, harmless way to while away a Sunday afternoon and I imagine the older ladies might love it.

In cinemas now 

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