Florence Foster Jenkins

Directed By: Stephen Frears

Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, and Nina Arianda

Director Stephen Frears has chosen some interesting stories to tell over the years, and he's worked with some great leading ladies over the years.  He directed Helen Mirren in her triumphant portrayal of living royalty in The Queen.  He guided Dame Judi Dench in her journey as an elderly mother retracing her long lost son's steps in Philomena.  This year, he gets the chance to team up with the ultimate leading lady, the iconic Meryl Streep.  Despite her rather eccentric red, white, and blue attire at the Democratic Convention a few weeks ago, Streep is still in terrific form on the big screen.  In collaborating with the world's greatest actress, Frears takes a rather interesting creative turn.  By playing some seriously sour notes, he delivers something super sweet in this weekend's Florence Foster Jenkins.

On the one hand, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) is a pretty loyal husband.  He indulges every fantastical wish his wife Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep) can conjure up no matter how unrealistic.  With his wife having financially reinvigorated the musical scene in New York City for so many years, he does everything in his power to make her dream to sing on stage a reality.  There’s just one problem.  It’s quite obvious that this rich socialite never been in tune a day in her life.  Looking for true music lovers and a soft-handed pianist like Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg), he pulls a concert together for his wife Florence to headline.  All the while, he helps her deal with the syphilis with which she's been afflicted for half a century.  On the other hand, St. Clair Bayfield is a rather disloyal husband.  Living in an apartment for which Florence pays with his mistress Kathleen Weatherley (Rebecca Ferguson), he's not so inclined to make Florence's dream to play Carnegie Hall a reality because he realizes she can’t sing.

A movie with as crazy a premise as Florence Foster Jenkins could only be true.  Writers can't make this stuff up.  Hitting all the wrong notes in beautiful fashion, Stephen Frears's latest flick is an old school delight that's surprisingly sweet.  Featuring two heavy-hitting performances from Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, this period piece from Frears makes bad singing delightful for moviegoers of all ages.  Frears infuses the film with a certain unmistakably upbeat energy and zest for life that really gives it plenty of cover for the sour notes his protagonist frequently belts out to our oratory displeasure.  Despite being a bit predictable in how things turn out for our leading lady herself, Florence Foster Jenkins is an impressive period dramedy that is undeniably entertaining.

It takes someone this good in order to purposefully be that bad, and there's no one better on the big screen than cinematic legend Meryl Streep.  Emotions are everything in this delightfully entertaining performance from the veteran actress.  A talented singer as proven in Mamma Mía and most recently Into the Woods, Streep knows how to twist the knife and make us painfully feel each and every sour note as the film's titular character.  At the same time, she brings so much joy and effervescence as this ailing socialite on the New York scene whose every breath is a sigh of relief against the odds.  Clueless to the bubble that her husband creates for her, Streep gives us a woman with a lot of love in her heart.  Polished, heartfelt, and perfectly off pitch, it's yet another strong performance from this iconic thespian.

The other pillar of Florence Foster Jenkins is Hugh Grant as St. Clair Bayfield.  He gives a wonderfully multi-dimensional performance as Florence's husband.  The spiritual soulmate to Florence — a woman afflicted with syphilis long before their wedding night — Grant gives us a loving husband who is fiercely attentive to his wife's every need.  A willfully blind enabler, Grant gives us a man willing to cultivate lies to feed Florence's fantastical notions of her own artistry.  A leech with physical needs, Grant is at times the life of the party for his on-screen mistress Kathleen Weatherley and anyone else who visits the apartment for which Florence pays.  Yes, Hugh Grant brings quite a bit to the film as its colorful male lead.

Florence Foster Jenkins
is the movie you don't expect to love as the summer box office season whimpers to a close.  Emotionally resonant, full of life, and inundated with bad singing, this is a wholly entertaining film from start to finish.  Florence Foster Jenkins gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.