Florence Foster Jenkins – The Delight of Delusion – Review

Courtesy Paramount

Courtesy Paramount

Florence Foster Jenkins proves you can overcome any obstacle if you are a rich, delusional white woman.

Set in the 1940s, Jenkins (Meryl Streep) is a patron of the arts in New York City’s High Society crowd as the war wages on across the globe.

While she has a deep, burning love for singing, she is horrible at it.

Absolutely dreadful.

Historically awful.

Even Auto Tune could not save her.

Yet, she puts on small parlor concerts with her loving husband, St. Clair (Hugh Grant),  who ensures the crowd is full of friends, and anyone who might have a bad word to say is dissuaded from doing so.

However, Florence cannot be stopped as she expresses the music within her, so she records a song to be sent out to her friends and family, which finds its way on to the radio, where it becomes a hit!

Now, Florence wants to put on a special concert for the troops and rents out Carnegie Hall.

Will her world be shattered?

Can St. Clair shield her from the truth any longer?

Florence Foster Jenkins provides some lovely, funny moments, but ends on the wrong note.

Early on, director Stephen Frears and writer Nicholas Martin make the film into a screwball comedy eliciting plenty of laughs as the people around Florence react to her “talent”.  Streep puts her all into the farce as she sings like an angel who might have contracted the Norovirus.

We all laugh at her poor pitch, questionable phrasing and straining as she attempts to find any note.

Sadly, Frears and Martin try to make Florence Foster Jenkins into something else, and fail.

The loving relationship between Florence and St. Clair is touching, especially as we see the man doing everything in his power to protect the woman he loves in such a complicated way.

However, the film loses its spirit when it takes a total turn toward the dramatic.   Florence’s big concert should be the highlight of the movie, and it is to some degree, but this moment lacks the power Frears and Martin need to blow away the audience.

Instead of seeing Florence as the battler who has overcome the odds to triumph, we are left with a rich person who is being coddled. Sure, we want to root for the underdog who is living out her dream, but not enough information is given to the audience to make her a more redeemable and admirable character.

The audience is supposed to like her because she tried, instead of understanding the way she has impacted the lives of so many artists or helped those in the most dire of days or possibly seen her real talent taken away by the illness we learn about early on in the film.  These connections would have made it all the more meaningful.

Also, it’s very hard to see our heroine taking the words of some critics so harshly.  If mean words from a critic were so damaging to the artist, I would have killed Rob Schneider years ago.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a nice time for Streep fans, and a few laughs for the rest of us.

2waffles_sml2 Waffles (Out of 4)

Florence Foster Jenkins is rated PG-13 for brief suggestive material.