FLORENCE FOSTER JENK­INS

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES -

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.

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