Haters going to hate. So sing, girl!
It’s the 1940s and New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) dreams of becoming a great opera singer. Unfortunately for Florence, her voice isn’t all that great and if anything, is actually pretty terrible. Her husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), knows this. The crowds she constantly plays to, knows this. Hell, everyone knows this. The only person who doesn’t seem to really know this in the slightest bit is Florence herself, which is why St. Clair does the best that he can to keep the truth away from her, so that she doesn’t lose all hope and give up her singing career. But it gets to be even more difficult for St. Clair when Florence decides to book a concert for Carnegie Hall, which leaves him clamoring to ensure that people don’t get in Florence’s way, as well as let her know that she’s quite rubbish when it comes to singing, actually. And while this may seem like it’s just a case of St. Clair performing his husband-like duties, it’s actually far more serious than that and brings into question what this performance for Florence means, after all.
Florence Foster Jenkins is perfectly servicable to any and all ages. Does that make it a great movie? No. Does that make it a bad movie? No. Does that make it a movie? Yes, it does.
If anything, Florence Foster Jenkins is probably the perfect movie to take your parents, grandparents, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, godson, goddaughter, step-dad, step-mom, step-uncle, step-aunt, step-brother, step-sister, step-cousin, hell, even your freakin’ pet, to. Meaning it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t set-out to harm, kill, or even offend anyone, but it’s also the kind of movie that’s just there to please everyone it sees and if it doesn’t please you, well, then, I’m sorry, but you’re not living.
It’s that simple.
Anyway, what works best about Florence Foster Jenkins is that, yes, it can get a little schmaltzy, a little sentimental, and definitely a little cheesy, but you know what? It still kind of works. Director Stephen Frears seems to have two sides to him: The one side that makes dark, unforgiving and mean flicks (Dangerous Liaisons, the Grifters, Dirty Pretty Things), and another side that likes to make warm, heartfelt, and light flicks that casually bring smiles to people’s faces (High Fidelity, The Snapper, The Queen). Here, he’s clearly working in the later form and it’s quite alright; he tells a lovely little story, the way it deserves to be told; he’s not getting down on Florence, the person, nor is he really getting down on anyone else, for that matter. He’s simply telling the story and you know what? Having a little bit of fun doing so, too.
And he’s not the only one. Unsurprisingly, Meryl Streep is quite good in the title role, playing a character we want to laugh at and make fun of, but over time, we start to learn more about and actually care for. Streep has played a lot of characters over her long and storied career, but a part of me wonders if she’s ever played someone like Florence Foster Jenkins and it makes me happy to see her play around with this role, playing it a little lighter this time around.
Will she get nominated for an Oscar? Probably, but whatever. It’s Meryl Streep. That’s practically a given by now.
Hugh Grant is also great in the role as her husband, the cad-like fellow St. Clair Bayfield. Clearly, this is a perfect match for Grant and the guy has some fun with it, as is to be expected; we start-off kind of despising him for cheating on his sick and dying wife, but through time, we start to see that there’s a little more to him that actually does care and will do whatever he can to make sure that his wife goes out on top. Rebecca Ferguson plays his girlfriend of sorts and is pretty good, even if her role can’t help but seem like an add-on to a heavy list of characters, like Simon Helberg’s, or Nina Arianada’s. While all are fun and charming to watch, sometimes, it can’t help but feel a little over-stacked.
Still though, like I said, everyone’s having fun here and it’s not hard to have the same feeling when watching Florence Foster Jenkins. It never tries for hard, emotionally gripping drama, but it doesn’t try to be incredibly silly, either – it’s just the right amount of humor and heart that only someone like Frears could deliver on. It makes me happy to know that he’s still contiuing to make movies just about every year or so, even if, yeah, of course, there’s still a stinker to be found somewhere.
Looking at you, Tamara Drewe.
Consensus: Charming and sweet, Florence Foster Jenkins doesn’t aim for the stars, but doesn’t have to, either, with its good cast and smart direction.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire