Blu-ray Review: Florence Foster Jenkins
By John Corrado
★★★ (out of 4)
Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) is a rich heiress who has always dreamed of being an opera singer, with the only problem being that she is oblivious to the fact that she can’t sing. But her husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) is fully willing to keep her dreams alive, even hiring young pianist Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg) to accompany her, and doing everything he can to keep the “mockers and scoffers” at bay.
Based on a true story, Florence Foster Jenkins is a highly entertaining period piece that provides a sweet ode to pursuing your dreams, regardless of talent or ability. The film is staged in the 1940s, when Florence’s dream of performing for a crowd of thousands at Carnegie Hall is finally within reach, leading her husband to worry that the newfound attention, and high probability of humiliation, will be too much for her.
Meryl Streep nails the almost painful yelping of Florence’s singing voice in some hilarious sequences, but she also imbues her performance with undertones of genuine pathos and humanity, portraying her as someone who loves music and just wants to share it with the world. Hugh Grant does some of his best work as a man who doesn’t have the heart to shatter his wife’s dreams, adding touching emotional hues to his nuanced role. Simon Helberg steals every scene, delivering a brilliant comic performance born out of his pitch perfect reaction shots and highly expressive movements.
The film also explores the fine line between blindly praising someone so as not to crush their dreams, and the personal effect that an overly negative critique can have on one’s psyche. Director Stephen Frears handles this all with just the right touch, pulling off the careful balance between uproarious humour and bittersweet drama that this absurd true story demands. Bolstered by a trio of excellent performances from Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg, Florence Foster Jenkins is an immensely enjoyable film, that is by turns charming, touching and weirdly inspiring.
The Blu-ray also includes several deleted scenes and a selection of featurettes on the production, as well as a piece featuring the historian from Carnegie Hall and a Q&A with Meryl Streep.
Florence Foster Jenkins is an eOne Films release. It’s 110 minutes and rated PG.