Florence Foster Jenkins

**1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Florence Foster Jenkins
"The embarrassment levels are high"

Movies are made that beggar belief, or beg forgiveness. This may be one of them.

Why Florence?

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Why, indeed.

Florence Foster Jenkins was a real person and a terrible singer. She was also an heiress which explains how she managed to persuade people to do what she wanted. And what she wanted was to sing.

In The Forties in New York, with a World War going on overseas, she organised concerts, or rather her English husband, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), bribed, cajoled and orchestrated these events, including the hiring of an unknown accompanist (Simon Helberg) with a nervous disposition and a fear of ruining his career before it had started by being associated with someone of Florence's vocal inadequacies.

The embarrassment levels are high which must be the point unless this is a lesson in the power of money over integrity. The only person who refuses Bayfield's charming advances is the NY Post's music critic. His opinion of the Carnegie Hall fiasco is as true as it is cruel.

With films such as Mrs Henderson Presents, The Queen and Philomena, director Stephen Frears appears to specialise in women of a certain age whose achievements are admirable, unconventional or determined. Florence Foster Jenkins would exclude the admirable in favour of self-deluded, adding beautiful period dressing instead.

Ultimately it comes down to performances. Meryl Streep, fat suited and bewigged, is flawless - to say "as usual" would take her for granted - and Grant proves, if proof was necessary, that he is so much more than a one-trick pony. As for Helberg, he steals the show. Like a mouse in a cage, contemplating escape with trepidation, he conveys that feeling of being trapped as an alternative to being free, with all its fears and uncertainty, like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate when faced with the mother of the girl he loves.

Why?

What was it about Florence that spurred Nicholas Martin to write the screenplay and attracted top grade talent to join the party?

Is failure fun? Ask Eddie the Eagle? It worked for him.

Reviewed on: 01 May 2016
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The story of a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite being unable to carry a tune in a bucket.
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