Florence Foster Jenkins

Film, Drama
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Florence Foster Jenkins

Meryl Streep squawks and warbles through this amusing biopic of a legendarily awful singer

Meryl Streep continues her screw-the-Oscars, life-affirming run of movies with this ridiculously watchable comedy, playing filthy rich socialite Florence Foster Jenkins. In the 1930s, the deluded diva sang at private recitals in New York, warbling opera, blissfully unaware that her hilariously awful singing voice might shatter the chandeliers at any moment. (David Bowie put one of her records on his list of favourite albums.)

Wearing comically vile dresses that look like they’re made out of cushion covers and doilies, Streep is clearly having a blast. To sing this badly must stretch as many acting muscles as all that Oscar-winning emoting. When tone-deaf Florence opens her mouth it’s like opening the door on a barn full of on-heat foxes. Protecting her from the truth is Florence’s younger second husband, St Clair Bayfield (played by Hugh Grant, who has transformed into a silver fox overnight). His mission in life is to keep the ‘mockers and scoffers’ at bay, bribing audiences and paying off critics. He pampers and fusses over Florence, indulging her every whim (we all need a St Clair in our lives), but comes unstuck when Florence dreams big: hiring Carnegie Hall in 1944.

You could get a bit sour about ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’. What would her modern equivalent look like? A Russian oligarch’s little princess paying call centres in China to buy her songs on iTunes? But director Stephen Frears sketches out her tragic backstory, and Streep in grande dame mode is not to be missed. ‘We’re artists. We’d rather go without bread than Mozart,’ she trills, like a modern Marie Antoinette.

By: Cath Clarke

Posted:

Release details

Release date: Friday May 6 2016
Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Stephen Frears
Screenwriter: Nicholas Martin
Cast: Meryl Streep
Hugh Grant
Rebecca Ferguson
Simon Helberg

Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|9
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tastemaker

A beautifully well told story of the beloved life of Florence Foster Jenkins. A woman and a human being who never gave up on her everlasting dreams, even if her life depended on it. I believe Meryl Streep performed, acted and created her Florence with absolute truth, with pride and with dedication. She gave her utmost to act an exquisite, flamboyant figure of the 1930s-40s. Streep portrayed a character that deep down everyone fell in love with. I didn't once feel any pity for this spectacular character because I knew that she would surpass the unfortunate events of her life and move forwards to be the best that she can.

She would never let anyone contradict her dreams of achieving.

Yes I agree that she probably didn't have the faintest idea of how incredibly grotesque she sounded while singing opera, but it's her drive, her passion, her love, and her kindness that shines through to make this film a masterpiece.

St. Clair (Hugh Grant) played a very peculiar role. He was indeed a player, but he cared so much for Florence that he didn't want her to be unhappy. He did everything in his power to make her life an unforgettable, memorable one. A life where she accomplished her goals.

I truly believe that this is what he wanted for her. To see her content, which I found quite emotional.

Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) was indeed a splendid, magnificent character in the film. This was a blast of a comedic film, but Cosme made me laugh the most.

His facial expressions, his manner, his tone really added the special touch to make this film what it is. A honourable tribute to a powerful woman. He stood by her side and that was quite admirable.

I absolutely adored and fell in love with the use of art being displayed throughout the film. It had this decadent, artistic setting to the look.

It is glamorously attractive and completely seductive to the eye.

Let Florence Foster Jenkins intoxicate you in this dramatic ensemble.

#TOTastemaker

Love MD.

Tastemaker

I found this to be an odd little film. It’s got a great cast with Meryl and Hugh and David Haig channeling David Dickinson and Big Bang’s Simon Helberg in a rolling-tears-of-joy role and it’s from the director of ‘The Queen’ and ‘Philomena’, both of which I loved and at times, it’s funny, interesting and moving but there was something about it that I found really hard to warm to for at least the first fifty percent of the film and by that point, well, it’s kind of hard to root for something that you’ve not really enjoyed watching for an hour already.


I think the main issue for me is that I didn’t really like Florence that much. Sure, I got that she’d had a hard hand in life dealt to her and that she was trying to keep the arts alive in her own way through a difficult period in history but I found it hard to care about her fussing over the lack of chives for the egg salad while WWII was raging across the pond. Did I grow to like her? I guess. I certainly grew to think that she wasn’t really doing anyone any harm but I’m not sure that’s the same thing and I have to say that there were elements of the New York Post journalist’s issues with the pandering to her that I agreed with.


This was a role that Streep could have played in her sleep and as such, it’s almost hard to be impressed when you know that to be the case. Grant was good although again, not hugely likeable while Rebecca Ferguson was wasted in a small side role – really, does anyone in Hollywood know what to do with this gorgeous, talented woman? Helberg was the star of the film for me, forever changing my opinion that all he can ever be is the floppy haired Howard from BBT. He absolutely inhabited every word, action and look in the role of accompanying (and fabulously named) pianist Cosme McMoon and deserves every opportunity that should come his way now.


The film looks beautiful with the Art Deco details in every scene exquisite and the last fifteen minutes are undoubtedly moving; I’m afraid it just came a bit too late for me. I didn’t ever see her as being pathetic or a laughing stock because she was without question a strong and passionate woman but I didn’t really feel that her circumstances warranted the non-stop ego stroking that was displayed. I never felt as though she was being mocked – indeed there’s only one scene in which she sees and hears an honest audience’s reactions – but I also didn’t really care either. It’s not dislike that keeps a film from being memorable, it’s apathy and that was, I’m afraid, my over-riding feeling here. 

Tastemaker

Typical Stephen Frears entertainment, like a cosy BBC1 Sunday afternoon comedy-drama albeit with A-List talent.  Laughs are had, Hugh is Hugh and you'll have something in your eye at the finale.  Although it goes without saying how good Streep is, special mention to Simon Helberg who's the real star of the show here.

Tastemaker

The life of Florence Foster Jenkins is all a bit tragic in this film written by Nicholas Martin and directed by Stephen Frears. Basically she was married, contracted syphilis, found music to be her ultimate passion and as a consequence was determined to take opera singing lessons. Only thing is she cannot sing.

Meryl Streep who is excellent as always, portrays Florence who gained a somewhat strange reputation as a socialite and heiress with a horrendous operatic singing voice. There is great acting support from Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg (who i thought was particularly funny) who try their hardest to cover up the fact that Florence is totally tone deaf.

Although her terrible singing was amusing to watch at times and there were lots of comedy moments, underneath it all it was a little sad and uncomfortable. To go to extreme lengths to avoid telling her the truth to spare her feelings left me thinking whether this was an act of love or just pure cruelty and humiliation. It made me think that perhaps honesty sometimes is the best policy. Nevertheless worth a watch.

Tastemaker

Very funny! Meryl Streep is wonderful as usual, and Hugh Grant was great too. There were some parts that had the entire audience in stitches.

tastemaker

American society dame can't sing, she is totally unaware, and none of her chums tell her. This thin story has been expanded into a two hour film.

Stephen Frears is a brilliant director, so this is especially disappointing. 

I'm sure the film will be a great success, but will only be appreciated by an older audience who don't get out much. 

Tastemaker

Being a fan of Merryl Streep and hadn't seen Hugh Grant in a movie for a long long time, I went with my mum to see Florence Forster Jenkins, which was a great choice of company for this film. A some points it's a little flat but certainly picks up and Simon Helberg makes a great performance as her devoted pianist. Balancing between feeling sorry for Florence and laughing so hard whilst commending her for her bravery, it's a light hearted film to go see.


Hmm..A rather old fashioned film which is has a little too much slapstick for my taste..The joke of her not being able to sing and being unaware of her limitations is stretched too far..Grant plays his usual debonair cad.Overall it is a mild,watery film that pensionaires would find hilarious.Others might find it a bit lame.3 stars

Tastemaker

This is a really sweet story of Florence Foster Jenkins and her devoted husband, who does everything he can to prevent her from ever finding out that people visit her concerts for a laugh, as she's such a terrible singer.


It's needless to say that Meryl Streep nails her part - of course she does! Who is really noteworthy in this movie is Hugh Grant. He does a tremendous job in his role and finally shows the world what a great actor he really is! No sheepish blinking into the camera, no boyish charm, no sir not this time! Don't watch this movie if you're after a Hugh Grant rom-com, you will be disappointed.


The other actor who does an amazing job is Simon Helberg (or Howard Wolowitz from the Big Bang Theory to you!), who plays Florence's pianist. He has no trouble shaking of his Big Bang character and simply becomes the pianist Cosme McMoon. I was a bit worried at the beginning of the movie that I would see Howard playing the piano all the time, but that didn't happen once - he is magnificent!


All three main characters are brilliant in this movie, the story is bittersweet and beautifully brought to live. Go watch it.