Directed by Stephen Frears
Written by Nicholas Martin
Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson
Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep) is an eccentric New York heiress with dreams of becoming a singer. The only thing standing in her way is her terrible voice.
This didn’t sound like a true story when I first heard the premise, but it is. Florence Foster Jenkins was a real person with a really bad voice. This film takes a part of her story and brings it to life. The film was written by Nicholas Martin, and directed by Stephen Frears (Philomena). The star of the film is the incomparable Meryl Streep (Marvin’s Room). The cast also includes Hugh Grant (Notting Hill), Simon Helberg (Good Night, and Good Luck), and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train).
This story is weird and entertaining, focusing on a small segment of the life of Florence Foster Jenkins. The entire film has a somewhat cartoonish sensibility, and that includes the way the characters are written. The dialogue and other aspects of the film often feel like they were taken from a musical. Luckily all of this makes for a fun movie that is just a little odd. The strength of the film is the witty tone that exists for most of the story. The weakness is the somewhat uneven tones later in the movie. This one seems to lose steam right when the payoffs should start. While this isn’t a great story, it certainly gives some great moments to the audience.
Meryl Streep does a very good job playing the title character in the film. She was able to handle the comedy, the drama, and the “singing” her character was asked to do. She also connected nicely with her co-stars. Streep earned her 20th Oscar nomination for her work here. This time is was a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Hugh Grant also did a nice job in this one. He has a natural wit that played right into the lighter moments of the film. He was also able to handle the more serious moments. Simon Helberg and Rebecca Ferguson were just a few of the other actors in this one. Their work added some nice moments to the quirky film. Overall, the cast did a good job with the material and even elevated it in some moments.
The visual styling in this film is unique and wonderful. This is one of the best aspects of the film, as it re-creates the 1940’s with a whimsical twist. The sets, costumes, and locations all feel genuine to the story and make this one a pleasure to see. Consolata Boyle (The Queen) was nominated for the Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work in this one. The audio work is also good, including the score by Oscar winner, Alexandre Desplat (The Imitation Game).
Overall, this is a good movie but nothing special. While the performance from Streep is solid, there isn’t enough from the overall production help this one stand out. If you’re a fan of the stars this might appeal to you. I might also suggest this to anyone who knows the true story of Jenkins. Otherwise, this might not be worth rushing out to see. I give this one 2.7 out of 5 stars.