stephen frears

FILM REVIEW: “Florence Foster Jenkins,” Unlike Its Subject, Hits Few Sour Notes

Meryl Streep stars in the charming, fact-based story of perhaps the world's worst opera singer

Florence Foster Jenkins (the person) was a 1940s Manhattan socialite and arts patron whose desire to be a professional singer, shall we say, outpaced her abilities. “Florence Foster Jenkins” (the movie), on the other hand, is quite competent, a cheerful ode to the values of loyalty and determination that hopes you’ll overlook (or agree with?) the dubious “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy that it tacitly endorses.

It was directed by Stephen Frears, an old hand with stories about matronly patricians based on real people; see “The Queen” and “Philomena,” for example. Here he has Meryl Streep in the warm, daffy title role, with the action set in 1944. Madame Florence and her doting, platonic husband/manager, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), are regular sponsors of artistic programs appealing to New York’s upper crust. Like many such patrons, they fancy themselves amateur performers (St Clair was once a small-time actor) and yearn to be more directly involved. Florence muses that she’d like to sing again, maybe give a recital.

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