FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016)
Stephen Frears directed this film from a screenplay by Nicholas Martin based on the true story of New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins who was a devotee of the arts particularly Grand Opera. Since so many successful musicians and conductors were beholden to her financial generosity (notably Leopold Stravinsky), none of them felt it was their duty to tell her she was tone deaf when it came time for her to sing. Well, sing she does and it’s hilarious, but this film is far more than just a silly comedy for there is a real tragedy under the surface of it all. Married at eighteen to a man that turned out to be a womanizer and a rake, Florence contracted syphilis from him but successfully fought the disease for fifty years when twenty years was the average time it took to kill the individual at the turn of the 20th Century. A beautiful cast has been assembled with Meryl Streep playing Florence to what will surely be another Oscar nomination. It should be pointed out that Meryl has an excellent singing voice and had to teach herself with a coach how to sing off key. There is a scene at the end when we hear Ms. Streep’s real singing voice, when we as the audience come to hear Florence as she hears herself, as a beautiful singer. It should be noted that the rest of the cast is excellent but it is Simon Helberg (THE BIG BANG THEORY) as her piano accompanist who practically steals the show and is assured of an Oscar Nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Hugh Grant, Rebecca Ferguson and a hilarious Nina Arianda round out the cast. Special note should be made of the extraordinary production design which was designed by Alan MacDonald in recreating the New York City of 1943/44, while the entire film was actually shot in England.