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Florence Foster Jenkins


Stars: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Christian McKay, Jonathan Plowright, John Kavanagh, Josh O'Connor

Director: Stephen Frears

Famously the world's worst opera singer, but blissfully unaware of her lack of talent, Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep) was a real person whom we meet during World War Two, towards the end of her life, giving recitals at the Verdi Club, founded by herself and her much-younger husband, St Clair 'Whitey' Bayfield (Grant), to its sympathetic and/or tone-deaf members.

She employs a new pianist, Cosme McMoon (Helberg, a dithering joy), who's bewildered by the screeching that emanates from his employer, but needs the money Bayfield proffers.

Although devoted to Florence, whom he calls Bunny, in many ways, Bayfield lives in his own apartment with his mistress (Ferguson, surprisingly indifferent). But when a record made by Florence with her new partner escapes to the radio and she plans a concert at Carnegie Hall, the wheels come off in all directions, especially if the Post's critic Earl Wilson (McKay) has anything to do with it.

It has to be said that, although the film remains entertaining, a little of FFJ's 'singing' does go rather a long way, and Streep's posturing in her crinolines should be more bellicose and less coy. But Grant is smoothness personified as Bayfield (exactly the performance the part requires) and there are some juicy supporting characters.

The introduction of syphilis, Jenkins' lifelong condition, at a latter stage, however, is jarring and should have been more subtly handled.

David Quinlan

UK/France 2016. UK Distributor: Pathe. Colour by Panalux.
110 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 03 May 2016