DVD Review: Florence Foster Jenkins

Maybe one day we’ll be so wealthy that no one will ever tell us we’re bad at anything.

Writing? You’re the next Hemingway! Painting? A modern day Michelangelo! Brain surgery? A genius!

Such was the life of the real Florence Foster Jenkins, an early 20th century Manhattan heiress and “opera singer” with a laughable singing voice whose husband and socialite circle pretended otherwise.

In the wonderful “Florence Foster Jenkins,” Meryl Streep plays the character of the same name and a salt-and-pepper Hugh Grant is St. Clair Bayfield, Florence’s younger husband, himself a fading Shakespearian actor.

It’s a story of someone who never gave up on her lifelong dream, for better or worse.

Florence and St. Clair frequently host private tableaux vivants — basically recitals for wealthy people with nothing better to do — always starring Lady Florence.

Friends such as Cole Porter and gray-haired ladies with poor hearing are among Florence’s biggest fans.

St. Clair acts as his wife’s gatekeeper, controlling who gets in to her performances and disallowing the press to attend in order to protect her from any negative influence. He also cares deeply for her health, which is declining due to the syphilis she contracted from her first husband decades prior.

While St. Clair plays the part of the doting husband, he quite openly carries on with his girlfriend, Kathleen (Rebecca Ferguson), and lives with her in an apartment that Florence pays for. Is he sweet? Is he skeezy? Grant gives a nuanced performance of this complex character that makes you think he’s a little bit of both.

After hearing a caller on the radio tell a sad story about a fallen World War II soldier, Florence decides that she will perform a concert at Carnegie Hall for the troops. Anyone can play at Carnegie Hall, apparently, as long as you have deep pockets.

Despite St. Clair’s objections to her lifelong dream of performing there, Florence doesn’t take no for answer because she knows she is not long for this world.

So a program is drawn up, tickets are sold, the marquee is lit up, the house is packed, the curtain opens and then … Lady Florence opens her mouth.

Streep is delightful as always and fully dives into the part with aplomb, from her ridiculous singing to her facial expressions.

Florence’s accompanist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) steals some scenes with his character acting and actual piano playing.

The costuming and cinematography are gorgeous and it is a delightful movie from start to finish.

Taylor Bigler Mace

Taylor Bigler Mace

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Taylor covers sports and maritimes for the Islander. As a native of Texas, she is an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan. [email protected]
Taylor Bigler Mace

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