Florence Foster Jenkins review

I love, love, loved this film. I thought that I might just like it, I mean, no one sniffs at a Streep movie, but I thought it might not be for my demographic.

Boy, was I wrong.

In case you haven’t heard of her before, Florence was a very wealthy lady, a patron of the musical arts, who was a little eccentric, and one day got it into her head that she should perform at Carnegie Hall. No one was brave enough to tell her that she couldn’t sing.

But before you think that this is just another X Factor audition, or another old-people-doing-cute-things movie (we’re looking at you, Di Niro!), think again. In the hands of Streep, Florence is both hilarious, fragile and inspiring. She radiates kindness, sadness, and a love of life. Which is heart breaking, because Florence is slowly dying.

Flanked by her protective husband Bayfield (Grant), a mildly successful actor, who panders to her every whim and truly adores her, Florence initially starts taking singing lessons, but no one has the heart to tell her she can’t sing, least of all the teacher whom she is paying. From this little lie, big things grow, from small concerts, to a record, to deciding to sing for the troops at Carnegie Hall. Bayfield makes every effort to shield her from the truth.

Joining the effort is the pianist who is paid handsomely to accompany her lessons, and is soon dragged in to the whole affair. Cosme McMoon (Helberg) is a delightful addition, his shocked expressions and barely suppressed laughter speaking for all of us. He is hilarious! But is also slowly drawn to Florence, and becomes her devotee, much like we do.

It’s side-splittingly funny to watch Florence trying to sing. There are so many brilliant little moments of hilarity in this film. But it’s so much more than this.

Florence is slowly dying of syphilis, which has meant that Bayfield and she have a marriage of love, but he has girlfriends on the side and his own apartment. It adds a layer to this film, a darker seam. Florence does not have forever, her life is not simple, but she inspires love and loyalty, and she has a dream. This film makes you want to see her life that dream, to sing, even if she has no talent.

It’s a beautiful film, both funny and tear-jerkingly sad. A story about loyalty, about protecting those we love, and about not dying with your song still unsung inside you. I think those are themes that anyone can get behind.

Hermione Flavia is a Screenjabber contributor

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