“Florence Foster Jenkins” Movie Review
When we first meet Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy New York socialite, she is deciding from the ceiling dressed as an angel much to the delight of her fellow society members who fill the atrium. While not graceful entrance (in fact, at one point she gets stuck), she is still warmly greeted, and it’s apparent that the crowd loves her. Her husband, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) accompanies her appearance with some poetry that the crowd just eats up. Inspired by her warmly received program and swept up in the emotion of the moment, she decides, with the urging of her husband to make her next appearance singing Operatic tunes.
Mayfield takes her home, all the while, Florence is bubbling over with excitement from the night and her future plans. Arriving home, Bayfield see’s to her every whim, making sure that she is comfortable for the night, even spouting more poetry until she falls asleep. Once she is asleep, it is very apparent that he doesn’t live with Florence, as he makes arrangements with the maid for Florence’s care and heads for the door. Bayfield heads across 1940’s New York and ends up at his mistresses’ (Rebecca Ferguson) apartment. From their comfort level and the subjects that they talk about, it’s evident that this arrangement has been in place for a while.
With the impending concert on the horizon, Florence is in desperate need of an accompanist. In walks Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg), a young man who has recently moved to New York with the idea of making it in the world of classical music. Cosme is a skilled pianist, but he is not prepared for the singing voice of Florence. In fact, to say she has one would be pushing the boundaries of good taste. In spite of with a vocal coach, Florence does practically everything opposite of how to sing opera; she rarely hits a note correctly, her timing is off in nearly every stanza, and her breathing is so off, you wonder how she remains upright while singing. Florence, Bayfield, and Cosme are about to go on a journey that even in their wildest dreams they would dare to think about.
This delightful film is reminiscent of the screwball movies of the thirties, though it never gets to a frenzied level of the comedies of the past. The film is funny, moves at a quick pace and has a few twists and turns (one which you won’t see coming). As with any comedy, it does have a few serious moments, as well as an underlying sadness of what her life could have been, but Florence’s “can do” attitude and her perseverance dominate the film, making mostly an upbeat and joyful film.
The supporting cast is a blast to watch, though Ferguson, as the put-upon mistress, isn’t asked to do much. Allan Corduner is hilarious as the hardworking opera teacher who knows a good gig when he sees it, buttering up to Florence as he plots to be out of town on her concert date. Helberg gives a winning performance, in particular, with the knowledge that he is playing the piano accompaniment on the screen. His mannerism and facial expression are priceless and his portrayal of the shy, unsure (except within his music) Cosme delights. Hugh Grant looks like he is having the time of his life on the screen as the husband who loves his eccentric wife but isn’t ready to give up his wild ways. Grant is at his best when he attempts to recite lines from plays to entertain fellow socialites at a gathering or lull his wife to sleep as she prepares for bed. Bayfield may be a cad, but Grant makes him Florence’s cad with a flourish.
This is, of course, Meryl’s movie and she jumps with both feet into the deep end with relish portraying this fascinating woman. It’s an amazing performance for someone we know can sing incredibly well. It’ a high-energy performance that makes Florence extremely likable, making us root for her to succeed, even though we are aware Florence can’t sing. It doesn’t matter because, against all the odds, she thinks she can. Not everything is perfect in Florence’s world, particularly when her husband leaves her every night to sleep with someone else and Streep allows her character to have that sadness just in the background of her character’s actions.
It’s Streep’s boisterous performance that makes this film so much fun to watch. You may not always enjoy the singing, but you certainly will admire the gusto that its performed with. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here.