Movie Name: Florence Foster Jenkins
Release Date(s): April 23, 2016 (Belfast Film Festival)/August 12, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) is a socialite and one of the best singers in New York City…all her friends tell her so. When her husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) hires Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) to be the piano accompanier in her lessons, Florence is ready it make the next jump in her singing career. The problem with Florence’s singing is that she isn’t any good. With a public performance scheduled at Carnegie Hall, Bayfield and McMoon must shield Florence from her critics.
Directed by Stephen Frears, Florence Foster Jenkins is a biopic of Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944). The film was released to critical acclaim and received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and Best Costume Design.
It is kind of odd that a biopic picture is a comedy because I don’t know that Florence Foster Jenkins thought of her life as a comedy. The movie might be played for laughs but there is a tragic nature to it.
It is in the humor of the movie that the plot develops. The idea that Streep’s character could live in such a bubble that she thinks she’s a good singer sounds almost impossible…but story after story indicates that Florence really was largely clueless in that aspect. Aspects of the story were fictionalized but the heart and soul of the movie seems to be there.
Streep gained extra attention in this role after a back-and-forth with Donald Trump who labeled her as “overrated” before the Oscar announcements (which had Streep getting her 20th nomination). Streep really does hold the picture. She did all her own singing for the film and she’s accompanied by The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg who did all of his own piano playing. Hugh Grant also does a great job as St. Clair Bayfield who might have “invested” in Florence for financial reasons but who obviously has feelings for her.
Florence Foster Jenkins looks good, but it is a rather typical looking period piece. It has nice costumes, but the real draw of the movie is hearing the singing. If you look up the real Florence Foster Jenkins, you learn that Streep isn’t that far off…and that just goes to show the surreal nature of the whole film.
Florence Foster Jenkins is a fun film, but it is easy to forget that it was a real life and a real person because of the comedic approach. It isn’t the deepest film but it is rather light and enjoyable even in the darkest moments. As the real Florence said and it is reiterated in the movie: “People may say I can’t sing but no one can never say I didn’t sing”…and that is what can be taken away from her story.