Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Nina Arianda, Flor Ferraco (Rated PG – 110 min).
As she is undisputed Hollywood royalty, any Meryl Streep film is an event in my cinema obsessed life so anticipation for Florence Foster Jenkins has remained at fever pitch since the first trailer was unleashed into cinemas, so it is with great pleasure that the film more than lived up to my great expectations.
Patron of the musical arts, a socialite heiress dreamed of becoming an opera singer despite being absolutely terrible on the pipes, a fact nobody had the heart or courage to tell Florence before or after announcing, out of the blue, she wants to sing at famous Carnegie Hall.
Deep into rehearsals, any foreboding soprano abilities remain limited even after a pianist is hired to help prompt any inner talent. His shocked expressions when first hearing the gurgling pitch being exhaled is priceless.
Radiating kindness and a love for life, Florence remains fragile, slowly dying of a condition heartbreaking to her protective husband Bayfield (Hugh Grant). Pandering on her every whim, adoring her every move, sadness mixes with inspiration loyally protecting the one he loves.
Director Stephen Frears is no slouch to presenting films adjusting your emotions accordingly (Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen). While ironically it may be sidesplitting to hear Meryl fail to hold a tune, she can and has sung on screen commendably many times over. Her opening melody in Death Becomes Her (1992) is perfection while Mamma Mia (2008) and most recently Ricki & the Flash (2014) certainly excelled her range.
Hugh Grant doesn’t make many films so his presence is of importance in such a caring elegant role. A rare thing happened last year, Streep appeared in two films and did ‘not’ get an Oscar nomination. This won’t be the case at the next ceremony. Beautiful, momentous, not to be missed.
Shane A. Bassett