Directed by Stephen Frears
Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg give excellent performances in Stephen Frear’s biographical comedy/drama, “Florence Foster Jenkins”, which focuses on the last period of the title character's life.
Florence (Streep) is a wealthy American socialite who owns a music club in New York where she occasionally teams up with her devotee-yet-unfaithful husband, St Clair Bayfield (Grant), in a few minor shows.
St Clair, a mediocre actor and monologist, never sleeps with his wife because she has been carrying syphilis, got from her first husband, since the age of 18. Despite spending the nights in a separate house in the company of Kathleen (Rebecca Ferguson), an unsecret girlfriend, St Clair does everything to please Florence, promptly attending to her most eccentric desires.
Despite the evident lack of talent, Florence’s dream is to become an opera singer. Encouraged by a vocal teacher and famous maestro, she decides to hire a pianist, Cosmé McMoon (Helberg), to accompany her in a bumpy musical journey that will bring her both laughs and tears.
Florence is not only convinced she’s ready for her debut concert, but also thinks she can reach the stardom. What she doesn’t know is that most of the people in the audience was paid to applaud, just like a few reporters were paid to write positive reviews about her jarring opera.
Excited with the critiques, the naive and good-hearted Florence decides to record and prepare herself for the next big step: to sing at the demanding Carnegie Hall.
The embarrassed McMoon only showed up to play because of the sincere friendship he had with his employer. Like the noisy sound of a shearwater, Florence hurt our ears with her calamitous melodies but managed to fulfill her dreams, entertaining a crowd that was mostly composed of soldiers.
The experienced Stephen Frears (“The Queen”, “Philomena”), who directed from a screenplay by Nicholas Martin, built the scenes on the same ground as the early screwball comedies, avoiding cheesiness on one hand, but adopting a somewhat zany posture on the other.
Presented with well-balanced, warm colors, “Florence Foster Jenkins”, is nothing more and nothing less than a noble crowd-pleaser that made me laugh more than I was expecting. Basically, thanks to Florence’s strident cacophony, and also to the hilarious behavior of Mr. McMoon.