As I mention throughout, this review is spoiler free.
Florence Foster Jenkins is Stephen Frears' (The Queen, Philomena) latest biopic. The film is based on the true events of a New York heiress who dreams of becoming an opera star but despite being very musically talented, she lacks the ability to sing. With the help of her loving partner and a hesitant pianist, they work to make her dreams come true.
It is really hard to say anything about this film without just repeating “it’s lovely” over and over again, because it really is just a sweet film. It’s also incredibly difficult to say a lot without spoiling anything. Meryl Streep, as the titular character, is phenomenal - she is as brilliant and as awful as you want her to be and seems to play the eccentric but warmhearted character with such ease, bringing great amounts of humour but also a heart warming, more sombre side to the role. Streep just shines throughout and has some wonderfully funny scenes but also gives a much more nuanced performance in other areas. It's no secret that Streep can sing and I think that helps in her ability to sing so badly here.
Hugh Grant as the affectionate St Clair Bayfield gives the performance of his career, which is funny because he came out of semi-retirement for this film just so he could act alongside Streep. Well who could blame him? I don't act but I wouldn't say no either! The relationship between the two characters is so touching, and despite the fact they don’t live together, you can definitely see how much they care for and love one another, with Bayfield referring to Florence as ‘bunny’ and the recurring use of the phrase ‘our happy world.’ I am not ashamed to admit there were multiple moving scenes with them both that made me very teary eyed.
Both Streep and Grant inject a lot of humour into the story, but a lot more of it came from The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg as Cosmé McMoon, Florence’s pianist who makes some wonderful facial expressions and has a nervous laugh that echoes Florence’s shrieks.
My biggest criticism with the film was a scene that appeared in the credits. It felt very out of place to me and spoilt the tone at the end. I wont say what the scene is or why this is the case because I don't want to take the risk of spoiling anything, but I expect others might feel the same way. As with any bio-pic there are some historical errors here and there and the film does utilise it’s artistic licence well, but this isn't really a negative thing and doesn't ruin anything at all.
It's clear that Nicholas Martin and Stephen Frears really care about this story. Martin’s script is fantastically funny but incredibly heartfelt and mature with some really lovely dialogue throughout. Frears’ direction is smooth and really invokes the feeling of 1940s New York, which is also down to the handsome cinematography by Danny Cohen who made modern day Liverpool look unrecognisable as the Big Apple.
Florence Foster Jenkins is a beautiful and poignant film that strikes the perfect balance between pathos and humour. The central performances are pitch perfect and the script is tender and sweet. It's a very gentle and melancholic piece that is full of laughs but also many, many tears from some very touching scenes that are handled perfectly.
This review has been deliberately vague as I feel that there is a lot in this film that - certainly on an emotional level - could be spoiled if you knew certain things before going into it. You wouldn't get the full experience and appreciate this film for what it is. But if you take one thing from this review, just take this: Florence Foster Jenkins is a really really lovely film that tells a sincere story about courage and life, and it gets virtually nothing wrong.
“People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing.”
Nick is a 2000 year old alien who travels through time and space, saving the good and conquering the evil... or so he likes to think.