Movie Review: Florence Foster Jenkins

imageIt’s an inspired idea indeed to have celebrated actress Meryl Streep perform in a most meta Emperor’s New Clothes style homage as an infamous no-talent. But as the titular character, a songstress oblivious of her pronounced vocal limitations, in Stephen Frears’s 1944-set biopic Florence Foster Jenkins (B), Streep’s seriocomic riffs are often on the mark even while the notes are all over the map. It is clear Frears finds his mercurial Manhattanite subject endlessly fascinating; and like Ed Wood, Bullets Over Broadway, Grey Gardens or The Producers, he finds fits of dry wit amidst the Schadenfreude. Hugh Grant as Florence’s conflicted husband is serviceable and occasionally sentimental, despite the actor’s limited range. Simon Helberg is a bit of a misfire as the songbird’s pianist, registering on the nebbish scale somewhere between Alan Cumming and Jason Schwartzman but with little of the charm. Nina Arianda is funny as a gangster moll type but is given strange motivations during a critical sequence. At the film’s heart is Streep herself, demonstrating with droll doses of heart and high-note heinousness that throwing yourself into an artistic passion with gusto, even when all the pieces aren’t altogether effective, can still be somewhat satisfying.

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I've reviewed films for more than 20 years. Current movie reviews of new theatrical releases and direct-to-video or streaming films are added weekly to the Silver Screen Capture movie news site. Many capsule critiques originally appeared in expanded form in my syndicated Lights Camera Reaction column.

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Posted in 2016

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