Tuesday, August 16, 2016

[Review] Florence Foster Jenkins

Another year, another potential Oscar-driven role for Meryl Streep. Here, she plays soprano Florence Foster Jenkins in this Stephen Frears-directed film that finds delight within off-key moments.

Music is the livelihood of Florence Foster Jenkins. The only problem is that she can't sing worth a darn. The sour notes she hits are enough to raise demons from the depths of Hell, and her husband and personal assistant St. Clair (Hugh Grant) refuses to tell her the truth. After Florence hires a young, skittish piano prodigy Cosme (Simon Helberg, "Big Bang Theory") to accompany her for an opera concert at Carnegie Hall, the levels of sympathetic embarrassment shatter the windows.

The film contains a merry and pleasant script, but the real comedy comes from all the emphasized facial expressions--whether it's Cosme trying to keep it cool when he hears Florence "sing" for the first time, or when the audience witnesses her belt out a wretchedly piercing "Ha-Ha-HAAA..." But Florence's kind personality and clear obliviousness eventually makes us feel bad for her. Not to mention, she's secretly dealing with a troubling disease, which certainly adds an underlying sadness.

It's no surprise that Streep is terrific here, and it's a perfectly Streepish role. Hugh Grant brings his usual charm and he forms his character with a decent amount of dimension. Simon Helberg is amusingly nervous and awkward, and a nice source of mirth. All that said, the one who often steals the show is an eccentric socialite played by Nina Arianda (Broadway's Venus in Fur) in a hysterically comedic turn. A particular post-party morning hangover sequence, as well as a riotous scene where she audaciously lashes out against the audience, are both a hoot.

Florence Foster Jenkins isn't quite a primetime encore, but it's a nice afternoon crowd-pleaser.

( 7.5/10 )

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