A number of people that know me, will know I am a slight Meryl Streep fan
(who isn’t?) and I also don’t mind a bit of Hugh Grant (I mean, he is the star of many brilliant late 90s/early 00s chick flicks!) and that I tend to like music/drama/biopic films… so when I first heard about this film last year, that the two were teaming up in, I was rather excited about it, so of course I couldn’t resist the bank holiday preview…
The story is based on the true story of a woman called Florence Foster Jenkins who was a New York heiress, who dreamt nothing more than becoming an opera singer… though there was one problem… she had a terrible singing voice! Despite this, she wasn’t willing to give up on her dreams of becoming a singer and wasn’t prepared to let anyone get in her way, and her biggest dream was to play carnegie hall.
Not only that, it’s set in 1944 (in a time when World War II was happening) and we soon also discover that she’s living with an illness. Therefore, there’s a few barriers to deal with.
The film stars a lead cast of Meryl Streep (as Florence), Hugh Grant (St Clair Bayfield) and Simon Helberg (Cosme McMoon), among some other great casting and characters. Meryl once again doesn’t disappoint in her performance, while I may be biased and I know little about the real Florence, she seemed to capture her spirit and passion with ease… and seeing as she can actually sing (See: Mamma Mia, Into The Woods and her song from Death Becomes Her) she did a great and hilarious job at being terrible! The film tagline of “you have to hear it to believe it” is definitely true in regards to her voice. The audience in both the film itself and the cinema were hooked on her both her wild vocals and excitable, warm personality. It’s easy to see how she won over the hearts of many.
As for Hugh Grant, he has said himself he’s stepped away from the limelight slightly and is much choosier in his roles, but it’s clear to see why this script had him sold and frankly I couldn’t see anyone else in the role; it felt very much a ‘Hugh Grant role’, but it worked.
However, I think the secret star was Simon Helberg, as he gave brilliant facial expressions, comic moments and despite flutters with his [McMoon’s] nerves or belief in her, he remained respectful and loyal through-out, he had a great character development.
The set and the costumes was the other thing that struck me, it all felt very true to the era and it made a nice visual treat like you expect in these type of films. I love the way many period pieces (such as TV show “Mr Selfridge” or film “The Danish Girl”) are styled, and this was no different.
Overall, this was a great music biopic drama, filled with love, friendship, comedy, passion and emotion. She was someone who may not have had the greatest of talents, but she sure did have passion… and sometimes that’s all you need, especially in a time when people may have needed nothing more than some light-hearted entertainment. A fun film that the family could enjoy!
Directed by Stephen Frears // Score by Alexandre Desplat
Out: 6th May (UK) // Rating: ★★★★