Florence Foster Jenkins is the latest offering of director Stephen Frears, starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg. It is a biographical film of the life of New York heiress and soprano opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins, played by Streep. Grant plays St. Clair Bayfield, Jenkins’ husband and assumed manager, while Helberg plays Jenkins pianist Cosme McMoon.
Visually, the film is amazing. The costumes are brilliant to look at with every detail seemingly having been thought of, from the jewelry to the stockings and shoes. The hairstyles are accurate, as is the makeup. Though less showy, the men’s costumes appear to have been equally meticulously designed. The same goes for the outdoor sets and cars. I particularly loved these outside scenes and spent a fair amount of time wondering how difficult it was to shut down the streets to film these scenes. I also wondered how they got so many cars from the time period in the one place (I wouldn’t really be surprised if it was CGI, but I like to think they did it the old fashioned way because it would be way cooler).
However, and it’s a big however, I felt the plot was lacking. I knew nothing about Jenkins of her life, which might have influenced this, but what I got in the film wasn’t what I was expecting, and though it included a lot about her life, a lot of her life isn’t shown. I found it wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be because the joke about her not realizing her singing got old quite quick. I also didn’t immediately pick up that Jenkins and Bayfield were married, and this led to me being confused about a few of the characters and some things that happened. Not only that, but to me Bayfield appeared to be almost using Jenkins, who it becomes clear, is much more dependent on Bayfield than he is on her. I don’t really know how true this is despite researching it, but it’s an aspect I didn’t like.
A positive is the care that Bayfield and McMoon had for Jenkins was clear to see and helps to explain why they don’t tell her about her singing. Sometimes though this comes across as babying her. Support for Jenkins, comes from many different directions, not just from McMoon and Bayfield, and it was uplifting to see how many people got behind her.
At the end of the film there are a number of facts presented, which I really liked and it was interesting to see that the careers of many people around her peaked with her performances and life.
Whilst not the worst movie I’ve seen, it’s definitely not the best and if seeing this move, I would strongly suggest doing some research before hand.
2.5 stars out of 5.