Florence Foster Jenkins

(2016)

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Title:
Florence Foster Jenkins
Release Date:
6th May 2016
Runtime:
110 min
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Genres:
Directors:
Stephen Frears
Writers:
Nicholas Martin
Languages:
English
Stream Quality:
1080p / 720p / 480p

Storyline

The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress, who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.

Ratings

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 86%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience 76%
IMDb Rating 7.2

Casts

Hugh Grant as St Clair Bayfield
Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins
Nina Arianda as Agnes Stark
Rebecca Ferguson as Kathleen
Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Martin Bradley ([email protected]) 10th May, 2016

A near career best performance from Streep

Surely only those with some knowledge of musical history and consequently at least some love of music, or perhaps a penchant for eccentricity like myself, will ever have heard of Florence Foster Jenkins, reputedly the world's worst singer, so without a ready-made audience why a biopic now, (two, if you count the new French film "Marguerite")? Maybe someone somewhere saw in this tale of a deluded grande dame a star vehicle for a talented actress of a certain age as well as an audience-pleasing combination of comedy and pathos and that's exactly what you get. No real knowledge of the subject is necessary to enjoy Stephen Frears' hugely enjoyable biopic "Florence Foster Jenkins" which combines comedy, pathos and a close to career best performance from Meryl Streep, (who else), to terrific effect and if you think Streep can play anything, in her sleep if necessary, pause a moment. On a technical level she may be the most versatile actress in the world but much too often she's been accused of failing to connect on an emotional level. I've always felt her Margaret Thatcher a great piece of mimicry but hardly worthy of a third Oscar and there are those who will claim that her Florence Foster Jenkins is nothing more than a shameless ploy for that elusive fourth Oscar. I will simply say that if she is to win that fourth Oscar surely it has to be for this great performance. Streep clicks on every level; this a tragic-comic performance of the first water in which Meryl never puts a foot wrong and yes, technically it's a marvel too with Streep doing her own appallingly off-key singing, (no mean feat for an actress with a superb voice). This isn't just the best thing she's done since "Doubt" but one of the best things she's ever done. Amazingly it isn't all a one-woman show; the big revelation here is Hugh Grant as Jenkins' husband, the man who loves her, you might say exploits her, and does his best to protect her. It's the least Hugh Grant-like performance of his career and he's never been better. Likewise "The Big Bang Theory's" Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon, Jenkins' accompanist, is outstanding in a difficult role. It's also beautifully written by Nicholas Martin, looks great, (the period detail is spot on), and is very well directed by Frears. As we head into the silly season of superhero blockbusters and the kind of of films designed to keep the kids quiet in the summer months this splendid biography may be the last good movie we will see at our multiplexes for months.

Reviewed by Lomax343 10th May, 2016

If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly.

There's something rather wonderful about people who manage to do things incredibly badly - William MacGonagall, the world's worst poet, and Eddie the Eagle Edwards, the world's worst ski-jumper, spring to mind; but Florence Foster Jenkins is in the pantheon as the world's worst singer. I have a CD of the few recordings she made, and not the least remarkable aspect of Meryl Streep's performance is that she superbly captures La Jenkin's extraordinary singing voice. This, however, is only one part of a beautiful performance, in which Streep gives us a touchingly vulnerable Jenkins. I saw this film expecting to laugh - and indeed there are some great comic moments. What I didn't expect, however, was to find myself sympathising with the title character so much, to the extent that I found myself rooting for her - not to give a magnificent recital, but at least to BELIEVE that she had. Hugh Grant plays Jenkins' sort-of husband (they never actually married in real life, though the film implies that they did) and manager. It's a fine performance, and he's lost none of his ease with comic scenes. He also has some heartwarmingly touching scenes in which he gives Jenkins the (platonic) love she is so desperate for, and when he tries to shield her from the truth. Even so, I was never quite sure how to reconcile this side of his character with the double-life he leads without Jenkins' knowledge. Simon Helberg is excellent as Jenkins' much put-upon accompanist, and Nina Arianda provides a good turn as a gold-digger who displays some unexpected heart. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by E23-films 7th May, 2016

★★★★ - moving and melancholic

This movie, in my opinion, is mislabeled. The trailers would lead you to believe it's a hilarious comedy about an old crazy woman who dreams of being a singer despite being tone-deaf. There are elements of that, of course, but it has much more to it than just that. Don't get me wrong, there are a fair few funny moments, especially the first time we hear Jenkins screeching wildly, and watching McMoon desperately contain his laughter. These successes are partially due to Nicholas Martin's organic and genuine screenplay, but mostly down to great casting (apart from some of the terrible secondary characters!). Simon Helberg is fantastic as the competent and camp young pianist, and Hugh Grant gives his best performance in years as Jenkins' devoted husband. But the movie belongs to Meryl Streep, who once again proves that nothing is beyond her. Each word she smoothly speaks, or screechingly screams, feels like her own as she embodies "the world's worst singer". Technically, the movie is impressive too. The 1940s mis-en-scene is brilliant, from the outrageous outfits to the elegant decor and old-fashioned automobiles that inhabit wartime New York. Cohen's cinematography and Bonelli's editing keep the film moving (physically and emotionally), but Stephen Frears is the true genius, taking a story which could have been boring and turning it into something engaging. As with Philomena, Frears has taken a sad, gentle, tender story and made it surprisingly feel-good, fun and enjoyable without shying away from the melancholy. 4/5

Reviewed by bob-the-movie-man 4th May, 2016

A gently comedic story of love and deceit.

Perpetuating little white lies is part of everyday life and keeps society ticking over. But to what point is it acceptable to massage an ego with a dirty black lie. A real whopper. And is such a lie perpetuated by love? Greed? Or the pursuit of personal glory? This is the rather subtle sub-text behind the story of Florence Foster Jenkins. Based on a true story, Florence Foster Jenkins tells the story of a truly awful singer (Meryl Streep), cossetted in her closed world of a 1944 New York hotel and pampered by her husband St Clair Mayfield (Hugh Grant), who is otherwise entwined with the sensuous Kathleen (Rebecca Ferguson). Together with ex-actor Mayfield, the wealthy Florence is the co-star of the show at her self-owned "Verdi Club" where she has a non-speaking role enacting various 'tableau' scenes. But in the interests of following her dreams she recruits the help of famous singing instructor Carlo Edwards (the marvellous David Haig) and an enthusiastic and personable young pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg, "The Big Bang Theory"). Carlo is aware of what he is in for (he wants to keep the arrangement 'on the quiet'); Cosme is not (to great comic effect). This classic re-telling of 'The Emperor's New Clothes' ultimately takes us on a journey to a packed concert at the Carnegie Hall, where many of the tickets have been given away to rowdy and drunk servicemen. It's impossible to describe a film as "delightful… just delightful" without hearing the velvety tones of Hugh Grant saying those words. But that's what it is. A treat of moving and at times wildly funny storytelling from director Stephen Frears ("Philomena", "The Queen") that just works from beginning to end. Meryl Streep is just glorious in the titular role, oozing charm. Those UK readers will probably fondly remember the piano playing 'skills' of the late, great comedian Les Dawson (google it for a youtube clip) who had to be an absolutely brilliant pianist to be able to deliberately play so badly. In a similar way, we know (from the likes of "Mamma Mia") that Streep knows how to belt out a good tune, so it requires some considerable skill to deliver Florence's songs as well (or as badly) as she does. Bravo Ms Streep, Bravo! And Hugh Grant is often quite unfairly criticized for playing Hugh Grant in every movie (as if Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford are much different?), but here he turns in a totally sterling performance. The drivers behind Mayfield's character are never totally clear (and I won't spoil that here), but in the final reel the motivating factor becomes crystal clear, and Grant has never been better. (Bravo Mr Grant, Bravo!). To round off the accolades for the lead performances, Simon Helberg turns in a genius comic performance as the goggle-eyed pianist, who lights up every scene he's in and delivers his lines (e.g. one about a naval encounter) with perfect comic timing. Shining again in a supporting role is Rebecca Ferguson ("Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation") who once again is dazzling. Among the bright young acting newcomers of the likes of Vikander and Rooney, Ferguson (who is approaching her mid-30s) brings a level of sophisticated glamour and maturity to the screen that is strongly reminiscent of the great starlets of the 1940's and 50's like Kathrine Hepburn or Lana Turner. She is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses. Also worthy of note is Nina Arianda as gold- digging starlet Agnes Stark – effectively playing (at least at first) the "little boy in the crowd" in the Emperor's fable. Written by TV-writer Nicholas Martin in his big-screen debut, the story is slowly and subtly unwoven, only progressively revealing the plot points in an intelligent manner. Other screenwriters take note: this is how to do it. Cinematography is by the great Danny Cohen ("The Danish Girl"; "Room") and with the Production Design, Costuming and Special effects crew 1940's New York is vibrantly brought to life. While the film's leisurely pace might make the younger set fidgety, this is a treat particularly for older viewers looking for a great night out at the cinema. The film got a good old-fashioned round of applause at my showing when the credits came up. "Delightful… just delightful". Go see it. (Please visit http://bob-the-movie-man.com for the graphical version of this review and to comment with your thoughts. Thanks).

Reviewed by RichardAlaba-CineMuse 4th May, 2016

A tragic tale about mental illness told on an operatically grand scale.

Genre labels shape your expectations of a movie but they are also manipulated by promoters to influence audience response. Both Marguerite (2016) and Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) are being sold as "hilarious comedies" whereas in reality they both tell a sad story of self-deception and mental frailty, albeit in funny ways. Marguerite is a comedy of manners, while Florence is a tragi- comedy, the genre that shows the sad truth behind the apparently ridiculous. Both films are bio- pics, with one satirising vanity the other telling a tragic tale about a mental illness that is displayed on an operatically grand scale. Unlike the fictitious Marguerite who is 'loosely based' on the real person, Florence is closely based on the wealthy and generous arts socialite Florence Foster Jenkins who came to public notoriety when she hired Carnegie Hall for her operatic recitals in 1944. Both films (and still available YouTube recordings) show the full force of how badly the real Florence sang, but that's where the similarity ends. Early in the film we learn that Florence (Meryl Streep) has defied medical science by living well beyond the usual lifespan of a syphilis victim, a disease she contracted on marrying when 18 years old. She endured decades of archaic mercury and arsenic medication with progressive loss of mental functions and chronic exhaustion. Her second marriage remained celibate by mutual agreement and her husband (Hugh Grant) was free to have affairs but was devotedly protective of Florence. The cinematic impact of these facts change the film from a satire to a study of pathos and tragedy as Florence is seriously unwell and singing is the only thing keeping her alive. While Marguerite amplifies the ridiculous as seen from the other side of the Atlantic, Florence is an American-owned story and any ridicule is tempered with compassion. The combined acting virtuosity of icons Streep and Grant will most likely earn the film Academy nominations as these timeless stars are superb in their parts and their chemistry together is wonderful. Top production values are evident in the period set and costumes, and the whole film has an elegant authenticity that underscores the seriousness of mental degeneration, whether its on the stage of Carnegie Hall or elsewhere. Audiences might leave cinemas still chuckling at the singing of Marguerite and Florence, but many will leave Florence with sympathy for her desperate desire to be something that nature made impossible.