FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
BY THE COMMANDER
2 (out of 4 stars)
Meryl Streep is one of my favorite actresses and has been cast in every type of character possible within a movie. She has performed wonderfully as evidenced by her numerous Academy Awards and nominations. Florence Foster Jenkins is yet another one of these iconic rolls.
The movie takes place in the 1940’s during World War II. A war rages in Europe and the economy is suffering throughout the U.S. Especially hard-hit are the arts, theater, music, Broadway stage, and Carnegie Hall, to name a few.
Florence is an heiress in New York who owns a music club and lives for music. She aspires to become an opera star, despite her inability to sing. She still has money during the depressed times and is called upon constantly to be the benefactor for the arts, specifically music.
She runs a social group that performs operatic music at a small concert hall. She is married to St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), her estranged husband, (they live separately, due to her contracting syphilis from her first husband) and meets daily with her ladies for lunch, in their flowing gowns and hats, as if they were going to the Kentucky Derby.
Florence often sings at her social functions to the dismay of her friends, but since she is the matriarch who’s financial backing keeps the doors open, they endure her tone-deaf singing.
Next, Florence decides that due to her fabulous performance, she wants to elevate her stature by performing in front of a large audience at Carnegie Hall. Florence hires the great singing coach Carlo Edwards (David Haig) and a young pianist, Cosme’ McMoon (Simon Helberg), whom shall sharpen her talents, to no avail.
To announce her upcoming performance, Florence decides to cut a record as a gift and distribute them along with the tickets to the social club members she has invited, though her husband tries valiantly to stop. Much to her husband's dismay, one record gets sent to a radio station, which is played over and over again. The singing is so bad that it becomes a big comedy hit with soldiers overseas. Her husband tries to keep prying eyes of the legitimate media from attending the concert and paying for favorable reviews, but is not successful. There’s a major turnabout in the actual recording, but I guess you’ll just have to see the movie to find out what happens.
This film is not fiction. It is a real story about Florence Foster Jenkins. Unfortunately, it's very slow and not very entertaining. It would've been much better off as a documentary instead of a fictional featured film. I don't see today's audiences flocking to theaters to see this movie, but it would gather a larger audience if it were a documentary on TV, PBS, etc.
It's a fascinating story, but it just doesn't play up well on the big screen. However, Meryl Streep delivers another Oscar-worthy performance and will probably end up getting another nomination.