Florence Foster Jenkins is like the Eddie the Eagle or Eric the Eel of the musical world. Both Eddie the Eagle and Eric the Eddie were treated somewhat as a joke in their respective sporting fields (ski jumping and swimming) but went on to gain respect and a loyal following despite being critically lambasted in newspapers.
Florence Foster Jenkins stars Meryl Steep as the titular character, an amateur soprano who has dreams of performing in the biggest musical venues in New York City. The main problem is, however, she simply can’t sing despite numerous singing lessons from the best in the business. Her manager and husband, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), is fully aware of this but is unwilling to stop Florence living her dream of performing at Carnegie Hall, despite a high chance for potential embarrassment for all parties involved.
Florence Foster Jenkins is a likeable, engaging and unchallenging film that successfully shows the title character, Florence Foster Jenkins, as a charismatic performer, despite her quite apparent inability to sing, because of her enthusiasm, desire and love of music. This enthusiasm and desire makes the hooting and laughing during her performances rather difficult to watch because it’s clear that Florence doesn’t deserve to mocked in such a humiliating way. Whilst the film never really criticises those who encouraged her to perform on stage (it presents them as loyal and respectful of her feelings and dreams) it does make her vocal couch appear to a be a smarmy git motivated by money.
As to be expected, Streep is superb in the leading role and she is well supported by a charming and typical performance from Hugh Grant and an intentionally awkward performance from The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg as pianist Cosme McMoon. The main selling point of the film is the loving relationship between Jenkins and St. Clair as the pair’s relationship is as infectious as Jenkins’ enthusiasm for music. On a more disappointing note, Rebecca Ferguson is wasted in a thankless role as St. Clair Bayfield’s mistress.
Florence Foster Jenkins is a fine film from the ever reliable and underappreciated Stephan Frear.