Meryl Streep plays wealthy New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins. The real life woman was a patron of the city’s opera scene in the 1930s and 1940s. Once in a while, she would sing at small events, and those invited would politely praise her. But Jenkins couldn’t sing a lick. For some reason, Jenkins decided in fall 1944 to put on a concert at Carnegie Hall.
This movie is that story.
Jenkins is doted on by her common-law husband St. Clair Bayfield. He’s played wonderfully by Hugh Grant. They were together 40 years, and Bayfield protected Jenkins from critics. In the film, Grant bounces through the plot like a ping-pong ball, squashing critics and hiding criticism from the fickle and emotionally tormented Jenkins.
Again, Streep demonstrates that she’s the best actress or actor of all-time. Period. When it requires stunning beauty, the 67-year old Streep can still turn heads. If matronly is required — as in this case — she steps up.
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Plus, Streep is an incredible singer. And it’s her vocal skills that sell this premise. Her singing is ear-splitting bad. It takes exceptional skill for a good singer to sing that badly.
This is where Streep shines. She’s brilliant as the talentless, pathetic woman. Her ups and downs are as fun as Grant’s, and both have a blast with this material. By the way, Simon Helberg, who plays Howard on The Big Bang Theory, plays Jenkins’ pianist, and he’s as good as his two big-star co-stars.
And then there’s the — dare we call it — music. Too much fun to miss.
‘Florence Foster Jenkins’
Director: Stephen Frears
Stars: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It’s playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, The Queensgate 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.