Anyone who’s watched Mamma Mia! or Ricki and The Flash knows Meryl Streep can carry a tune. She has a good to great voice. So I can imagine the stretch it was to play Florence Foster Jenkins in her new movie by the same name.
Mrs. Jenkins can sing all right. She just sings … badly. Flat. Off key. And with some rhythmic pacing problems, too. But because she’s rich, she can hire the best accompanists, vocal coaches, and staff. And she does.
The movie is a dramatization of the life of the real Florence Foster Jenkins, a socialite in the 1930s and ’40s. Mrs. Jenkins loved to sing and she organized one of the New York city musicale societies that were popular then. They would present living tableaus to music.
In real life, Mrs. Jenkins was told she couldn’t sing and received lots of criticism. In the movie, her husband (played by Hugh Grant, who, may I say has been absent from movies for too long, and, while showing his age [finally!], is still looking very fine), works hard to keep all honest opinions far from her ears.
The story is about Mrs. Jenkins deciding to bless New York and returning World War II veterans with a Carnegie Hall concert. Her other concerts were invitation-only affairs, rather easy to keep kind and receptive. Carnegie Hall … not so much.
There is a lovely message about being there for one’s friends, about love persevering, and about following one’s dreams, no matter the cost.
Towards the end of the movie, we hear Florence sing as she hears herself. She acknowledges her critics with a quote, said by the real woman: “They may say I can’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.”
Isn’t that the kind of people we want to be? Or is it just me?
The kind of person who wants to dance/golf/sing/cook/write/paint/play tennis/design clothing/do anything and who doesn’t let fear of what others will think or say stop them.
That’s a message I can get behind.
The movie is good, if gentle in pacing. The performances are solid, particularly Streep and Grant and a great supporting performance by Simon Helberg as Jenkins’s accompanist. Helberg is better know as Howard on The Big-Bang Theory.
Over all, I enjoyed this movie and recommend it.