Florence Foster Jenkins
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Set in 1940s New York, Florence Foster Jenkins is the true story of the legendary New York heiress and socialite (Meryl Streep) who obsessively pursued her dream of becoming a great singer. The voice she heard in her head was beautiful, but to everyone else it was hilariously awful. Her husband and manager, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), an aristocratic English actor, was determined to protect his beloved Florence from the truth. But when Florence decided to give a public concert at Carnegie Hall, St. Clair knew he faced his greatest challenge.
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Top Customer Reviews
The film begins in New York City in 1944 with an evening's entertainment being put on by and for the Verdi Society, an arts appreciation club founded and financed by wealthy socialite Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep in yet another Oscar-worthy performance). A series of tableaux of famous depictions in art are being presented, narrated by St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant in amazingly good form), Jenkins common-law husband, manager and, as we see later, meticulously devoted protector. We first see Jenkins when she descends from the ballroom's ceiling as a costumed Muse of Inspiration for frustrated composer Stephen Foster, to the oohs and ahs of the admiring audience. Dainty and elegant Jenkins is decidedly not, but she is famous for her outlandish costumes and her performances are always sold out, a fact which makes it easy for Bayfield to carefully select her audiences so that "No mockers and no scoffers!" are allowed.
The highly talented cast are, in a word, marvelous. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, Doubt, The Iron Lady) as always, delivers a masterful turn as Jenkins, giving her subtle shades of depth that make what would in lesser hands have been a mere comical character into one of great sympathy and even admiration. Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense & Sensibility) is amazing as Jenkins' doting and protective if less than faithful husband, St. Clair Bayfield, giving the best and most nuanced performance of his entire career. Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory, A Serious Man) does an excellent job as Cosmé McMoon, the concert pianist who served as Jenkins' accompanist in her later years, constantly having to suppress the reactions of his musically trained ears to Jenkins' note-fracturing singing. His facial expressions are priceless, making verbal comment completely unnecessary. And Nina Arianda (Midnight in Paris) absolutely nails her performance as Agnes Stark, the brassy showgirl/trophy wife of one of Jenkins' friends who first laughs at Jenkins but later comes to her rescue in one of the best moments in the film. I'm sure that many of the people involved with this film will be recognized come awards season.
Highly, highly recommended as a thoroughly engaging film with great performances about a truly extraordinary individual who made her mark - albeit a bizarre one - in the history of performing arts.
The big surprise for me was Simon Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz on the tv comedy The Big Bang Theory. He gave a stellar performance that was completely different from his TBBT character. He not only displayed impressive piano technique (I used to play, mother was a teacher, I know how hard it is to memorize long complicated classical pieces), his acting ability blew me away -- his facial expressions, his timing and delivery of his lines -- on point. I look forward to seeing Mr. Helberg in many more movies, as I believe he has a massive amount of untapped talent.