Get ready for Oscar nomination #20, everybody.
The indomitable Meryl Streep, who two years back garnered her 19th nod for Into the Woods, is an all-around delight in the title role of Stephen Frears' Florence Foster Jenkins.
The picture treats us to a look at how Jenkins, an ambitious socialite who frequented and invested in the New York arts scene into the 1940s, managed to buy her way into an opera concert for herself at Carnegie Hall...the one problem being Jenkins, lovable and charismatic as she was, couldn't hold a note for her dear life.
Reluctantly along for the ride are Jenkins' Shakespearean actor husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) and pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg, nearly stealing scenes from Streep in a comically nervous turn that recalls Gene Wilder), both supportive of the leading lady, yet very much wary of the likely not-so-glowing reaction from the public.
Streep, no surprise, is a tour-de-force here, particularly when she graces the stage - the audience before Jenkins may be aghast at her vocal ability but we Streep fanatics could not be more ecstatic. For her performance alone, the picture should be seen.
That said, the film is a tad claustrophobic, never really exploring the exciting hustle and bustle of '40s New York. Supporting players are thinly drawn, particularly Rebecca Ferguson as Bayfield's mistress. The material seems best-suited for a stage production and indeed, a terrific play on Jenkins, Stephen Temperley's Souvenir, graced the Great White Way about a decade back. The Frears picture, while entertaining, does not break a whole lot of new ground on Jenkins' life.
Florence Foster Jenkins can be catalogued right alongside Mrs. Henderson Presents... as one of Frears' stagier efforts which, despite its flaws, is well worth a look for the turn of its leading lady.