MOVIE REVIEW: Florence Foster Jenkins

The true story of the woman who has been called the World’s worst singer comes to the screen with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

A few months back I watched a French film called Marguerite.  It’s the same story as Florence Foster Jenkins, well basically the same story, Marguerite is played for drama while most of Florence Foster Jenkins is played for slapstick laughs.  An exceptionally rich woman, with a heart of gold, and a love of music, is taken advantage of by entertainment types and her husband.  They milk her for all the cash that they can while trying to tell her that her voice is good enough to sing in public.  Sadly her voice is terrible, but due to no one wishing to tell her the truth, and voice trainers wishing to keep getting paid, it leads her to book the biggest music venue in town.

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Streep plays Jenkins, a kind-hearted wealthy woman, and Grant plays the Husband who she lovingly calls Whitey.  He’s a failed actor and she just wants to bring more love into the world and help people.  Her love of music and performing seems to be keeping her alive.  Her friends all lie and tell her that she is a great singer and you feel sorry for her truly.  The fact that no one tells her the truth because they don’t want to hurt her feelings is admirable but it leads to utter destruction.

Marguerite was played for the drama of the piece and it would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad, where here in Florence Foster Jenkins the drama of the situation is drilled out of the film.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  Florence Foster Jenkins is a fun movie to watch and if you can remove yourself from the whole reality of the situation you may enjoy it.  It’s set in the year just before she died, 1944, when America was still in the hell of World War 2.

The settings of the time and the costuming is 100% spot on and Director Stephen Frears and Writer Nicholas Martin manage to get the speech of the time and that class of Society correct.  What lets the film down is the over doing of the cliché characters, the party girl, the Irish Maid, the Society want to bes and Entertainment crowd who scoff at anything different or are just out for their own pockets.  Streep and Grant are fine in the roles, I’m pretty sure that at this point they can play these types of part in their sleep, so there is no stretching of their known acting muscles needed.

The one role that bothered me, because it was a one note performance from the star of the Big Bag Theory, I think he plays Howard, I’m not that up on that show.  Simon Helberg plays the pianist of Florence called Cosme McMoon.  I just wanted to punch the stupid smile of the face of his character, there is little to nothing involved in what he did on-screen, he could have been a background character in a silent movie.  It’s rare that a performance makes me feel so agitated but I seriously got annoyed every time he came on-screen, and he’s on-screen a lot.  I’m sure the real life Cosme was less annoying, it would be hard not to be, here he just seemed out-of-place.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a great time in the cinema, it’s a fun night out for those who want to sit back and see the true story of a huge hearted woman who was taken advantage of and who convinced herself that she had the talent to sing in public.  There are a lot of talent show contestants who should watch this and maybe think again before going on TV.  When I talk about Marguerite I always say it would be funny if it was not so sad, but in the case of Florence Foster Jenkins the laughs are there, I laughed a lot, but I didn’t feel the guilt that I did in the far superior Marguerite.  Where Marguerite was a great film, it was uncomfortable to watch, but Florence Foster Jenkins is a good film, for the most part enjoyable, just not as polished as its French Counterpart.  Stay tuned during the credits at the end when you get to hear the real life Florence Foster Jenkins singing on her recordings.  Try not to laugh too much.

Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Nicholas Martin
Stars: Rebecca Ferguson, Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant

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