FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
Director: Stephen Frears ( Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson Verdict: If at fi rst you don’t succeed, sing, and sing again
IN Meryl Streep’s previous starring role in a feature fi lm, Ricki and the Flash, she convincingly played an ageing rocker who could sing like an angel.
To call Streep’s latest performance in Florence Foster Jenkins a complete 360- degree turnaround would not be inaccurate.
This time she plays a woman who cannot sing for love nor money. But not for want of trying.
That’s “trying” as in giving her all to every tune, and also “trying” as testing the absolute patience of anyone within earshot of her crimes against conventional melody.
Throughout her long and privileged life, Florence Foster Jenkins kept taking to the stage and Foster Jenkins. Florence taking dreadful liberties with the fi nest operas.
On a good night, she would hit notes known only to canines. On a bad night, eardrums and windows alike were in imminent danger of cracking.
At this juncture, it must be stated that the story outlined here is indeed a true( ish) one.
If you are so inclined, recordings of Mrs Jenkins massacring the classics can swiftly found on YouTube. Just be warned these obstacle courses for the ears are not for the faint of heart.
It should also be mentioned that the very same story serves as the basis for another fi lm currently playing in arthouse cinemas, the French- made Marguerite.
While Marguerite is better at capturing the tragi- comic commitment of a rich socialite to a deluded folly, Florence Foster Jenkins has Meryl Streep. As we all are know by now, when Streep shows up for any job, it is never just for the cheque.
Streep’s winning work ethic continually lifts the movie and its support cast to a better, brighter place than should really have been the case.
The many musical sequences are delightful, crowd- pleasing exercises in ( un) easy listening, with Streep shredding notes with gleeful abandon.
However, where the star really pays her way is in the sections of the movie where we must believe Mrs Jenkins is living in a bubble in 1940s New York. A bubble where news of the open derision of the public and her obvious lack of talent can never reach her.
Streep fi nds an endearing empathy in the character that would have eluded most other performers, and her wonderful interplay with Hugh Grant ( who plays Jenkins’ famously protective and philandering husband St Clair Bayfi eld) once again bears out the rare calibre of her acting.