It’s got layers. So this is a biographical story about the best worst singer in the world, Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep). She has the willpower, support, and financial backing to make herself into an opera star, despite her inability to actually sing. This came to me very highly praised, but I held back and reserved truly getting excited about this until the DVD was sitting in my mailbox. I don’t always connect with biographical movies that most people love, and you need not look any further than Spielberg’s Lincoln to see what I mean. I’m just going to cut to the chase: I love everything that this movie does, and it is one of my very favorite movies of the year, if not my very favorite.
We’ve still got some highly touted movies to go, so only time will tell.
Florence’s story is a fascinating one, and she is so enigmatic, it’s almost hard to believe that she was actually a real person. To use the word eccentric would be an understatement, because she’s just so unique, I don’t think the world is ever going to see another person quite like her. Meryl Streep does an incredible job at bringing her to life, and you know that belting out off-key opera can’t be easy if you have any training on how to properly sing, so you have to give a tip of her hat with the amount of work that she must have put into this. And then there’s the singing itself. You may think you know what you’re in for just based on the description. You have no idea. When you first get exposed to it, you’re going to react like the majority of her audience: you’re going to laugh your ass off. The thing about it is that it never actually stops being hilarious, and this has huge entertainment value because of that. What is also engrossing on top of her singing is the people that she is singing for. Hugh Grant plays her husband, and he is also terrific as well, but he is the one that is really feeding into her delusions of grandeur; you see plenty of scenes where he coerces somebody into a favorable review, or slips somebody a bill or two to applaud instead of boo. He’s not even doing it for his own personal gain, he’s doing it because he cares about her, and it is hugely compelling.
I enjoyed exploring the complexities to their relationship.
All of the leads deliver knockout performances, Simon Helberg included. I can’t say that I have ever been able to connect with the Big Bang Theory, but here, he does a wonderful job playing what is essentially the avatar for the audience in his introduction to Florence. Of course at first, he’s trying to contain himself from laughing in WTF fashion, but the more time that passes, the more he realizes that he’s been accepted into their family and the more he supports her in her endeavors. On top of all that, I really just dig the message behind it: just do what makes you happy above all else, whether that is singing or supporting your wife in something that nobody else seems to see or understand. I got a lot out of this movie, and I give it a glowing recommendation.
Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) *****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016? See for yourself here.