Sunday, 22 May 2016
#34 FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
Starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Heldberg, Nina Arianda and Rebecca Ferguson. Written by Nicolas Martin and directed by Stephen Frears. Running time 110 minutes. Budget $4.5 million.
This is the sugar-free, bitter-sweet bio-pic of tone-deaf and tuneless Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep), a 1940's New York socialite and patron of the arts who believing herself to be a great singer hires Carneige Hall to perform, while her adoring husband, St. Claire Bayfield (Hugh Grant) hires pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) to train her for the performance of her life.
Despite being a gentle and funny film, this still manages to leave a bitter taste in your mouth when the novelty of her bad voice wears off and you begin to realise that all she wanted to do sing and entertain and has no idea how bad she really is, thus making you feel a little jaded for mocking her.
Streep and Grant are terrific and it makes you wish Grant had made more films, he's an old school actor and has a natural charm that reminds you of David Niven. Similarly, Streep performs effortlessly and makes Jenkins not a black and white figure of fun, but a character with depth and warmth and rather than mock her you find yourself rooting for her, despite knowing how this sad little tale will pan out. Stephen Frears' direction is, as always tight, and the film looks gorgeous. So it's sad to report that despite so much that is right with this film, it never really sings, it's sort of entertaining but nothing more, you find yourself wanting to learn more of her past which as it is is only subtly hinted at. The end of the film features an actual recording of the late Jenkins singing and it's impressive to see how well Streep captured it.
Also, while the cast, particularly Streep and Grant are great, the same cannot be said of Simon Heldberg who attempts to escape his Big Bang Theory fame by sporting an infuriating accent and a creepily effected manner, however all he succeeds in doing is making you realise he will forever be typecast as Wolowitz.
Still, this was a entertaining and funny romp and a nice distraction from the usual slew of big-budget super hero blockbusters that are slowly filling up the theatres.