Florence Foster Jenkins Review
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They say that music can soothe the savage beast. But those savage beasts probably never heard the music of heiress Florence Foster Jenkins, whose remarkable true story of grand musical ambition and dubious fame is depicted in all of its ear-splitting (and often side-splitting) glory in director Stephen Frears’s biopic.

Florence Foster Jenkins stars the remarkably well-rounded Meryl Streep in the title role. A lifelong lover of music and patron of the arts, Madam Jenkins wanted nothing more than to captivate audiences with her singing. The only problem: she couldn’t carry a tune. But with the help of her resourceful husband, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), her pianist, Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg), and some devoted (and often well paid) “music lovers,” she was able to turn her dream into a reality, singing in front of rapt audiences to rave reviews.

Florence Foster Jenkins tells an astonishing (and amusing) story about how far a person can go if she has passion, determination, and a whole lot of money.

Streep is hilarious as the endearingly tone deaf heiress. It clearly takes a talented actress to be quite this bad—and she does it with an infectious enthusiasm that makes her character so passionately oblivious that you can’t help but love her. Despite the horrible singing (and also because of it), she’s just plain fun to watch. But between the singing scenes, she gives Florence far more depth and drama than you might expect, offering a look at the character’s fears and vulnerabilities to make her more than just a ridiculous caricature.

Meanwhile, much of the film’s entertainment value actually comes from the other characters and their reactions—from the looks of shock, amusement, and utter dismay from the people around Florence. Helberg, especially, is remarkable as the soft-spoken pianist who’s paid handsomely to keep a straight face while encouraging his employer to continue down her ill-advised path. His over-the-top (and almost vaudevillian) facial expressions alone are some of the funniest things in the movie.

Grant, too, adds interest to the story with a character that’s layered and intriguing and completely committed to caring for his wife—despite their complicated relationship. So even though the novelty of Streep’s wonderfully pitchy performance does begin to wear off a bit after a while, the cast, the characters, and the silly comedy come together to provide some fun-filled summer viewing.

Sweet and shrill and sometimes wildly funny, Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful biopic with a noteworthy cast. After a few months of big, noisy action movies, it’s a refreshing change of pace.

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