Last week I went to see the film Florence Foster Jenkins. I thought I’d have a go at writing a review. My overall opinion of the film is that I award it 7 out of 10.
“Some may say that I couldn’t sing, but no-one can say that I didn’t sing.”
The film is directed by Stephen Frears (he also directed The Queen, and Philomena, both of which I have seen previously).
It is based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins (July 19, 1868 – November 26, 1944), played by Meryl Streep. Florence was an American socialite and amateur operatic soprano who was known and ridiculed for her lack of rhythm, pitch, and tone, her aberrant pronunciation, and her generally poor singing ability. She is encouraged and helped by her husband/manager, played by Hugh Grant. He hides his opinions of his wife’s lack of talent, and ensures that critics stay away from her performances by giving out tickets to a chosen audience.
The film is advertised as a comedy, and there are some funny moments. But it is also a rather tragic story. Florence was a great pianist when young, and contracted syphilis from her first husband she married at age 18. She far exceeded the life expectancy estimated by her doctors. She and her devoted husband live as companions, and he is free to have relationships with other women. When Florence decides she wants to have singing lessons and perform in front of audience, her husband finds a music teacher for her, and helps her choose a pianist to accompany her. Hugh Grant was looking quite old, and he just seemed to play the same posh English character that he does in every film he’s ever been in.
Meryl Streep is excellent in the role of Florence. Not only did she have to learn to sing, but to sing out of tune! I found the out of tune singing rather annoying after a while. Her accompanist, with the fabulous name of Cosmé McMoon (played by Simon Helberg) was a wonderful character who eventually got to perform at the Carnegie Hall, although not in a way he might have wished.
Florence was unaware that her audience were laughing at her, and eventually she attracted a huge following who wanted to hear her sing for the comedy value alone. She even made records and radio shows and became famous across America.
This was a lovely, gentle film to watch. I had no expectations of what the film was about before I saw it, but the more I found out about Florence, the more I liked her. There is loads of information on the internet about this amazing lady and her life.
Here’s a much better review in The Guardian.