Florence Foster Jenkins
4/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Stephen Frears
scr Nicholas Martin
prd Michael Kuhn, Tracey Seaward
with Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Stanley Townsend, Allan Corduner, Christian McKay, David Haig, John Sessions, Brid Brennan, John Kavanagh
release UK 6.May.16
16/UK Pathe 1h50
Florence Foster Jenkins
Quirky couple: Streep and Grant

helberg ferguson townsend
See also:
Margeritte (2015)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Florence Foster Jenkins A smart script and game performances from likeable actors make this true story both emotionally resonant and wrenchingly hilarious. It's also an intriguing exploration of privileged artists, pop culture and the fact that there's more to stardom than talent. Best of all, it's a chance for Meryl Streep to get dressed up and put on an riotously funny show.

In 1944 New York, wealthy socialite Florence (Streep) hosts fabulous parties with her husband St Clair (Grant), who never quite made it as an actor. Florence loves to sing at these events, working with top vocal coach Carlo (Haig) and talented young pianist Cosme (Helberg). While having an agreed side relationship with Kathleen (Ferguson), St Clair shields Florence against the fact that she has no talent. So she books Carnegie Hall to perform for returning troops. And because St Clair has hidden Florence from critics, her audience has no idea what they're in for.

Streep has so much fun with this role that it's infectious. Florence is oblivious about her shortcomings, hearing in her singing the soaring voice of her operatic idols rather than her own strangled notes. And everyone around her supports this delusion. But there's more to it than that, including the fact that the roaring laughter from listeners shows how entertaining she is. Their applause is genuine. And Streep milks every moment for maximum impact, from the grand gestures to scenes in which Florence is frail and vulnerable.

Opposite her, Grant finds remarkable texture as a man who gave up his own shaky career to support the woman he loves in an unconventional way. In the scene-stealing role, Helberg uses impeccable reaction shots to bring the audience into this quirky couple's extraordinary life. In many ways, this film is actually about Cosme McMoon, a fascinating character who may deserve his own movie. And Martin's script and Frears' direction revel in dropping amusing hints about his private life.

The other characters are thin by comparison, but each offers a key piece in the puzzle of Florence's career. Without compromising the real story, the script is beautifully structured to build up anticipation before she sings the first note in a painfully funny scene that's never quite equalled later. But it's the emotional kick in the final act that resonates strongly as a meaningful exploration of friendship, love and respect. Not to mention the fact that all of us love at least one musician who, frankly, can't sing a note.

cert pg themes, language 9.Mar.16

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