27 April 2017

Florence Foster Jenkins (starring Meryl Streep)

Browsing Amazon a while ago, I saw this DVD recommended to me. Reviews, for the most part, were good; in my experience anything starring Meryl Streep is likely to be excellent, and there was the bonus of Hugh Grant. So I put it on my wish-list, and was delighted to receive it (actually the Blu-ray edition) for a recent birthday.

‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ is about a late middle-aged woman - played by Streep - who is clearly not in the best of health. She is loved and protected by her husband who gives monologues in music halls… although we quickly learn that theirs is a rather strange relationship.

The story begins when Florence decides that she wants to take singing lessons again. There are some light-hearted scenes where they interview various applicants for the job of accompanist. The successful candidate, Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helburg), is young and dedicated, and can’t quite believe his good fortune. At least, until the first lesson, when he discovers that Florence’s singing leaves much to be desired…

I had read on the back of the blu-ray that the film is based on a true story. In a way, i wish I hadn’t known that. Part of the bittersweet humour of the film is about the way that everyone conspires to avoid letting Florence know that she really can’t sing. In a fictional setting, with reality suspended, I could have relaxed and probably enjoyed it. As it was, I kept thinking of how awful it would be if - or when - she eventually learned that her loved ones had been deceiving her.

It’s not a film for those with perfect pitch, or who find it painful to hear bad singing. I’m no musician, and I cringed at times. Meryl Streep does a wonderful job portraying Florence; as ever, she takes on the part fully, and the character felt all too flamboyantly real. Hugh Grant, too, while somewhat typecast as her husband, does very well, and Simon Helburg’s expressions as the accompanist are also a delight.

As a film, I’d give it five stars. The pace is good, the story sparkles, and the acting is excellent. But the story itself made me feel uncomfortable, hitting just a tad too close to real situations I’ve come across.

Rated PG in the UK, PG-13 in the US. Some of the implications and conversations are somewhat ‘adult’ although there is nothing explicit. Bad language is minimal and there is no violence; drinking and smoking are commonplace. Based on the content I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under the age of at least twelve.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's DVD Reviews

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