Culture Street

By Sophia whitfield
Stephen Frears previously directed The Queen and Philomena; both films are notable for their strong female lead characters, played by Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Frears has done it again with Florence Foster Jenkins, giving Meryl Streep the lead role in a fabulously farcical tale.

Based on the true story of a New York heiress and socialite dedicated to the support of music in New York, Florence Foster Jenkins is a tribute to one woman’s unwavering passion for music. During the 1940s the world was in turmoil and Foster Jenkins felt the need to share music with the world. She founded the Verdi club and supported musicians financially to bring music to the masses.

Convinced of her own terrific talent Foster Jenkins pursues her dream to become a great singer. Her husband St, Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) valiantly stays by her side encouraging her little talent and paying off the media to secure rave reviews for his wife’s performances. Grant plays St. Clair, an aristocratic actor, with style and humour. His performance is quite brilliant, from the energy of his dance scene to the endearing care he imbues when taking prodigious care of his wife.

When Jenkins is convinced she needs to give a performance at Carnegie Hall, Bayfield fears he can no longer protect her from the slanderous press. The truth of her terrible lack of talent might finally be splattered across the pages of the Post. Jenkins instructs Bayfield to hire a pianist to accompany her for her big night. Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) plays pianist Cosme McMoon with subdued passion. Despite his comical name he is understated. Confused by the awful singing and terrified that by pairing himself with Jenkins his non-existent reputation will be ruined, McMoon continues only because he has no alternative. For almost the entire film Helberg is playing the piano – his expressions are priceless.

Streep shines as Foster Jenkins, her musical ability is staggering and her on screen connection with Grant and Helberg superb. She shows us just why Foster Jenkins was so admired and gives credence to the fact that her concert remains one of the most requested programmes from the Carnegie Hall archives.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a glorious night out with lots of laughs.

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