With that in mind, we embark on our even-handed appraisal of director Stephen Frears’ (The Queen) latest offering. Streep stars as the caterwauling Florence who is entirely, and for the most part charmingly, ignorant of her musical shortcomings. Hugh Grant is opposite her as St Clair Bayfield, Florence’s husband and manager who goes to extraordinary lengths to preserve her delusions. Theirs is a complex relationship, loving but sexless. Florence sleeps alone in her hotel suite while Grant stays downtown with his girlfriend Kathleen (to whom he behaves rather less sympathetically.)
The central cast all put in convincing performances, with The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg appearing as Cosmé McMoon, the flustered pianist conscripted to accompany Streep’s squawking arias (which, after the first or second recital, can feel rather like endurance tests). Equally persuasive are the film’s sets; all velvet curtains and furry shawls, they capture that gaudy ‘50s glamour perfectly.
But the film’s big stumbling block is that it can’t decide how seriously to take its characters. Both Florence and St Clair are sometimes treated as caricatures torn from the pages of some mid-century comic strip, sometimes as players in a moral drama. The result is strangely disorienting.
So while this isn’t a film that deserves any furiously-penned diatribes, it is unlikely to go down in the annuls of cinematic history.
|What||Florence Foster Jenkins film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
06 May 16 – 01 Jul 16, Event times vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|