Review: Florence Foster Jenkins
This is a film about an NYC socialite during the dark times of World War II who loves music and wants to share it with, well, everyone. Alas, she doesn’t have the voice for it, and a diseased hand prevents proficiency with any other instrument. While Meryl Streep is engaging in the title role, and Hugh Grant shows a remarkable range of expressions in support of his wife (none of them betraying displeasure), the biopic struck me as a one-dimensional portrait. I left pretty much with one burning question: What makes this story worthy of a movie? The answer still eludes me. Streep was comical in her portrayal, but certainly, I reasoned, no one could be that oblivious in real life, not only to her shortfalls as a virtuoso, but also to her husband’s, uh, parallel life in a separate apartment. Or to the obsequious fawning of everyone from Arturo Toscanini to the bellman. And that is the movie’s Achilles’ heel. Yes, it is a comedy (a tragi-comedy, if you consider the philanthropic Florence the victim of an overbearing father, a syphillitic first husband and a thankless New York music community). But it’s hard to muster any emotion other than amusement for a character drawn only as a cartoon. The bright spot of the film was Simon Helberg (Big Bang’s Howie Wolowitz), whose doe-eyed expressions of horror as Florence’s accompanist are worth the price of admission alone.
Should you see it? Yes, if only for laughs.
Viewed at Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema