Florence Foster Jenkins

Those who thought that Meryl Streep’s bag of tricks was empty, will have to reconsider. Florence Foster Jenkins is about to challenge her staunchest critics. Florence Foster Jenkins was a New York socialite who liked to sing opera. Despite her total lack of talents, she performed at private recitals, recorded 78rpms and ended her career with a concert at Carnegie Hall. Nicholas Martin’s screenplay is very faithful to the real events n her life, although it is doubtful that Florence was as clueless about her singing as she is in the film. It is well-known that her life partner, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), took all the necessary steps to avoid the inconvenient bad reviews when Florence performed at private recitals, and if reviews appeared he made sure they were written by friends. Once Florence announces to St. Clair that she wants to do a recital, they have to find an accompanist. Cosmé McMoon (The big bang theory‘s Simon Helberg) is at first ecstatic about getting the job. And comes the first reheasal. This the first time Cosmé hears Florence’s voice. He is in shock. And so are we. Streep’s face expressions are fascinating to watch. As Florence’s vocal coach (a petulant David Haig) is instructing her on the art of singing and falsely telling her she is good, her face twitches terribly. The scene is an instant classic. Cosmé, who thought that the gig would do wonders for his career, is now thinking of quitting, but is convinced by St. Clair to stay as Florence’s accompanist. We learn about Florence’s difficult life and that she is still suffering from the syphilis she got from her first husband on their wedding night when she was eighteen. She is now in her seventies. As a result of the disease, St. Clair Bayfield took a mistress. There is so much to like in Florence Foster Jenkins. The screenplay goes from campy comedy (if you like camp, this is the film to see) to the most effective tearjerker. Half way through of the film, I was surprised to find myself right in the middle of a classic comedy routine. The most touching moment happens at Cosmé’s apartment where Florence washes the dishes and she Cosmé play the piano. I think this is the best acting we’ve seen from both Streep and Grant. Grant shows the kind of range here we’ve rarely seen. St. Clair Bayfield’s character is like a master of ceremony. A little comedy bit here, a magic trick, oh! there you go, the bad man from the newspaper has disappeared, smile at the audience, a dance number here and a then dramatic scene, and another comedy routine and don’t forget to wink at your audience. Hugh Grant makes it look easy, no sweat. Some credit should go to costume designer Consolata Boyle and makeup artist J. Roy Helland (Streep’s personal makeup artist and an Oscar winner for her Margaret Thatcher makeup on The iron lady) for the creation of a unforgetable character. In every aspect Florence Foster Jenkins is the most accomplished film this year.

And the Oscar went to… Streep’s 20th nomination. A record. But she lost to Emma Stone in La la land. Costume designer Consolata Boyle lost to the great Colleen Atwood for Fantastic beasts and where to find them.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Florence Foster Jenkins

Directed by:
Stephen Frears

Screenplay by:
Nicholas Martin

Starring:
Meryl Streep
Hugh Grant
Simon Helberg
Rebecca Ferguson

110 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

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