Florence Foster Jenkins was a wealthy grande dame and patron of the arts who notoriously deluded herself she was a talented opera singer, warbling off-key at excruciating private concerts and soirees. Meryl Streep plays her with great gusto, the empress proud of her new clothes. This Florence is a scary amazon to go with Streep’s impersonations of Margaret Thatcher and Emmeline Pankhurst. Hugh Grant plays her indulgent partner and chief courtier, a failed Shakespearian actor – and his performance is genuinely touching. Simon Helberg (from The Big Bang Theory) is her cowed accompanist, a man who finds himself along for an increasingly bumpy ride.
“Stephen Frears’s new film is based on a true story, but one of the biggest compliments it can be paid is that you wouldn’t know it. Florence Foster Jenkins feels less like a biopic than a classic postwar studio comedy – a pillowy paean to silliness, and the perfect antidote for sobering times.
That’s particularly appropriate given its subject: an American amateur opera singer whose voice brought joy to millions in the depths of wartime, largely because she could turn even the most graceful coloratura soprano line into what could only be described as a contaminated aria.
Foster Jenkins wasn’t famous because her singing sounded like a cat fighting a duck in a wheelie bin, but because she committed to it with the panache and depth of feeling of a peak-form Callas. Her records became instant collectors’ items, and her concerts sold out immediately. Florence Foster Jenkins put musique brut on the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York City and gave two bucks from every ticket sale to charity.”- Daily Telegraph 4 star review