Florence Foster Jenkins is an uneven but occasionally poignant biopic about a character who underestimates the wide gulf between those who appreciate art and those who make it. In post-war New York, its protagonist (played by Meryl Streep) is a patron of the arts who uses her considerable wealth and status to support concerts for the upper class. After growing tired of standing on the sidelines, she begins taking singing lessons with a legendary vocal coach. Because of her clout, neither he nor her doting husband Bayfield (Hugh Grant) have the heart to tell her the truth about her talents, or lack thereof. In fact, the strategy doesn’t even need to be spoken aloud. In their small world rife with aging socialites, a little deception in the name of flattery is to be expected.
The bold performances by two stars are noteworthy. Grant has fully transcended the sheepish persona of his youth; here, he uncovers layers of meaning in a tragically complex character. Meanwhile, Streep seems to have found a proper vehicle to indulge in service of a character that, had she not been based on a real person, would likely be viewed as too ridiculous to exist. As Jenkins, Streep hits all the right notes—the comedic highs and the mournful lows. She never struggles to find the acting pitch even as the character fails to find the musical pitch.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall