by Georgia Sanders
Based on the true story of the woman dubbed ‘the worst singer in the world’, Florence Foster Jenkins is an emotional immersion into the very real problems of a woman with an unwavering determination to become a part of the musical world for which she had such intense affection.
Unable to play the piano since contracting syphilis and damaging the nerves in her hands, Florence – played by the ever-perfect Meryl Streep – takes to singing as an outlet for her musical passions; despite her lack of skill in the area. A combination of her wealth, large entourage of friends, and tirelessly devoted husband, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), ensure that she never receives an honest word’s feedback – that is, until her ambition gets the better of her, and she books herself in to perform at Carnegie Hall.
St Clair’s blatant love for his wife is so tangible that, even upon seeing their relationship’s complications, one has the utmost faith that their connection is a deep one – and that there must be more to the situation than at first appears.
It seems almost a waste of breath to attempt to explain how flawless Streep is in this role – for she is eternally flawless – but to do the film justice, I truly must. She fully embodies the human layers of Florence; her real talent, her passion, the seriousness with which she takes her craft – as well as her naiveté, her aging wounds and their result in her striking need to attempt projects way out of her depths in an almost bipolar surge of positivity.
Accompanied by polite, timid, pianist, Cosme McMoon, formidably portrayed by The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg – whom, it seems, is much more capable an actor than Chuck Lorre gives him credit for – Florence pours her soul into her painfully screeching performance through a combination of confidence and obliviousness.
Meanwhile, even side characters such as McMoon develop their own depth, bonding with the audience and bringing you in to their select group of unlikely companions.
Rarely does one come across a film that is filled with such overwhelming joy and yet such devastating sadness. The quippy and soulful script leaves us both laughing and ugly-crying within moments of each other, with classy comedy – sometimes in as little as a masterful look from Grant.
Enveloped in all of the glamour and wonder of the era, Florence Foster Jenkins beams with laughter, tears, new friends and inherent solidarity. It is an utter joy to witness – and like the very real quote from both Streep, and the real Florence herself states – “they may say (she) couldn’t sing, but they’ll never say (she) didn’t sing.”
And with that; I’m off to see it again.
Florence Foster Jenkins is out 6th May