Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Needs Her Machine

Meryl Streep trying out her voice again post Mamma Mia!, Hugh Grant camping it up as a thoroughly upper-crust English toff. The backdrop of the otherworldly nineteen forties New York. It sounds like music to the ears.  Except the music is the least smooth and cultured thing about this unique biopic.

Florence Foster Jenkins is not a name that will rank up there with Maria Callas, Haley Westenra and Shirley Manson and the only thing she shares with Katherine is a surname. Yet, this woman was, to all the world, convinced of her prodigious talent, and had the financial clout to make enough people believe it too.  After all, you can’t walk up and hire Carnegie Hall.  The empress’s new voice, if you will.

Proof that money and influence and a general lack of hubris can convince almost anyone of their own greatness. Pia Zadora and Paris Hilton take note. Frank Sinatra would have and Donald Trump will love this film.

Let’s not confuse though the characters with the players.  By all accounts, Streep and Grant had a right rollicking ball working on this film, and those of us not cursed with perfect pitch will probably feel the same way too.  There’s laugh out loud and there’s tear jerking too, and there’s a revelation that will make you ashamed to have even mocked this woman for a moment.  If the story tickles your fancy, then don’t overlook the man tickling the ivories.  Cosmé McMoon, pianist to the redoubtable FFJ (as no one would ever dreamed of calling her) made his career big bang by taking the stage with his tragically tuneless patron.  Theory goes that Simon Helberg will rise above his long running sitcom part and make his film big bang on the back of this performance.

Steve Frears has form when it comes to directing prodigious female charters to the screen.  With the Queen and Philomena already under his belt, he seems the go-to guy for the story of the indefatigable Florence.  The relationships may have been sexed up, the timeline too, but the essence of Florence Foster Jenkins’ existence is all there.

All Florence needs is her machine.  It’s called a vocoder.

Florence Foster Jenkins, directed by Stephen Frears, UK Cert 12A.

On general release 6 May 2016


One thought on “Florence Foster Jenkins”

  1. Superb review Simon.
    Almost worthy of me!!

    Will certainly check this film out, with La Streep singing for her supper, even while her audience are holding their collective breaths & ears!
    Florence needs her machine – love it!

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