Is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do? She can act, she can sing and has won several awards. In her most recent role she is set a new challenge- to play someone who is completely devoid of talent.
Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep), a New York Socialite in 1944 New York, loves music and her passion for operatic singing is indulged by her friends and her younger hsuband St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant). However while Florence believes a great deal in her singing ability she is in fact-as her new pianist Cosme McNoon (Simon Helberg) quickly realises – completly tone deaf.
There’s probably another film that could be made about Florence Foster Jenkins, one that would show her less sympathetically. A more critical, less gentle film that questioned if Florence knew more about her critics than the film suggets. It may also portray Florence as someone who uses her wealth to do whatever she wants no matter her actual musical worth. But it’s doubtful that film would be anywhere near as entertaining as director Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins.
It is a bit redundant to say Streep puts in an excellent performance as Florence, after all it is Meryl Streep. Yet again she pulls off a fabulous performance working against her instincts as a good singer to play someone who has no idea how terrible a singer she really is. The scene where we hear her sing for the first time is one of the funniest scenes of the year so far. It’s not just how off tune she is either, it’s the reactions of everyone around her, particularly from Cosme (Helberg gives some great reaction shots throughout the entire movie).
Underneath the comedy there is a saddness and tragedy in Florence’s path, it is this that gives the film an added poignancy and makes Florence more than just a deluded figure of fun. While Streep is the key ingrediant in the movie her co-stars are also vital in making the film work. Grant gives one of his best performance in years, convincing as a loving husband paying off the critics in order to protect his wife while also having a mistress (Rebecca Furgeson-also great). Helberh is also very funny as the pianist who can’t believe what he has to work with.
Nowadays the likes of Florence Foster Jenkins wouldn’t be able to hide from the critics and we’d be laughing her off the stage like an audience for the X Factor. However there’s something to admire about someone who loves to sing that much. As the real Florence once said “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”
Rating 4/5 – top note performances by all in this often funny, sometimes touching look at the world’s worst opera singer