To break the monotony of the summer blockbuster flops that plagued my psyche for nearly three months, I found myself getting an invite for a change of pace film that I heard exquisite things about. In my mind I am just happy I have friends with such eclectic tastes in art, in this case movies because I was saying yes faster than a pride at her wedding, and I had no issues to that point. I thought, Meryl Streep is always phenomenal and that just won’t change no matter film she’s in and it’s nice to see Hugh Grant have a role that is of note this time around. What I got from Florence Foster Jenkins was a charming, but often dry period piece that hit as many high and low notes as the film’s lead character.
Imagine this, you’re a New York socialite in the 1940’s with a war going on with an enemy your country uniformally despises, but beyond your fears of the troops you have ambitions to become something exquisite and your talents will take you there. Well, that’s Florence (Streep), but there’s one problem with this fantasy world you and her are living in and that’s thinking your talent equates to your ambition to sing. Here’s the next kicker, even though you aren’t aware of your sheer lack of talent, your loving spouse decides to do his/her best to make sure you keep that fantasy living with sue-sayers and gratuitous usage of money to ensure everything works out solely for you.
That’s what this movie is and at first it’s actually pretty funny with a period piece sense of style richly woven with textures and pallets of color and pizzazz that you’d expect from 1940’s New York setting, but even though the laughs and charm of the first act loom within the film later, I found myself fizzling out rather quickly for a film that doesn’t have nearly as much at stake as I’d hope for a premise such as this and that’s where I feel this film didn’t work for me. To be fair, the acting was wonderful and constantly charming as well as conflicting in some instances, but I can’t say that it pulls the film out of it’s grayish hole that is slips in between acts two and three.
Streep really hasn’t done any wrong as the actress transforming in her roles, but the film’s narrative doesn’t carry as much weight as the beautifully tragic character that is Florence Foster Jenkins. In this case, less was not more in telling her story, but at the same time I can’t imagine there was much more for anyone to tell with this movie. I think Hugh Grant’s performance was impressive, but his character was someone I couldn’t get attached too like I was supposed to. He wasn’t a character worth rooting for in regards to traits of his character, but the actions he did within the story felt slightly redeeming to the whole story…maybe. Streep’s shrieking and belting sounded surprisingly good for an actress being told to sing poorly, but even that overstayed it’s welcome pretty rapidly and fell under the category of just irritating. Would I recommend it? Sure I would, but I think this is one of those movies your grandparents or other older demographics would enjoy on a Sunday more than 20 somethings on a Friday.