IT's just kind of.....there
Florence Foster Jenkins (2016): The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.
So, let me lead with this: I am in the camp that thinks Meryl Streep, while undeniably great, did not deserve an Oscar for this role. Unfortunately, that pretty much dominates my opinion of this film, which is a shame because there are certainly great bits scattered throughout the movie. But there's also no doubt this film was built around Meryl Streep, and I will always have an issue with the Academy giving an actor or actress, even one who is considered by many to be one of the greatest alive, a nomination for its most coveted role when they know this. I don't claim to be an acting expert, but I've always felt it's much easier to play a role that's built around your strengths and weaknesses than it is to step into something outside your comfort zone. So yes. Meryl Streep is great, but it's not an Oscar-worthy performance. I digress. Let's talk about the rest of the film!
Actually, let's backtrack. Might as well get acting out of the way first. Hugh Grant is.....oh man! He is as charismatic as can be in this. He's basically playing himself, but hey let's not forget I love a film like Knight and Day because that film let Tom Cruise play Tom Cruise. Also outstanding was Simon Helberg. Unlike his Big Ban Theory co-star Jim Parsons in Hidden Figures, Helberg is actually really really good! I freaking loved his character here. He basically plays the audience in his role, and he holds his own against the legendary Streep and Grant. Also doing her best, though her character is undoubtedly the weakest part of the story, is Rebecca Ferguson. She's still trying to find her footing after breaking out in Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation, (she tried her best but was crashed in the train wreck that was Girl on a Train....didn't even realize I was making that pun when I started that thought) but I'm confident she'll find a fleshed out role to finally be taken seriously in Hollywood.
Let's talk about that, shall we? Let's talk about Rebecca Ferguson's character in this film, because as I think about it her TERRIBLY written character almost sinks the entire ship here. She plays Kathleen, which is Hugh Grant's....other wife. So first off, she's like 25 years younger than Hugh Grant, and it shows in this film. This age gap is never mentioned, of course. Second off, her character is not at all developed and is basically meant to serve as a plot device. And before you think there's going to be some dramatic scene between Grant and Streep when Streep's character finds out that Grant is practicing polygamy....don't worry! Let me spoil that one for you! IT DOESN'T HAPPEN. No! At one point Ferguson makes a totally ridiculous "it's either her or me" ultimatum to Grant and everyone in the world with a brain knows Grant is going to side with Streep, and when he inevitably does Ferguson just leaves. That's it! No more Rebecca Ferguson. Done. The closest thing we get is one scene Streep visits Grant unexpectedly and we have Grant AND Simon Helberg (don't worry he knows about Ferguson of course and keeps Grant's secret for literally no reason) pulling off these stupid slapstick gags to keep Ferguson (and another girl) hidden from Streep's viwion. This was totally out of place within the film, and when I started this review I didn't think it bothered me that much but given the fact that I just ranted about it for an entire paragraph clearly it did. BAD MOVIE.
Ok! Now that that's out of my system. Let's talk about more positive things. So the film leads up to this performance at Carnegie Hall, which was a shockingly emotional sequence. Heck it may even sneak into my top movie moments of 2016. Not sure about that one yet, but it was a lovely sequence that, in the span of a few moments, threw me from one side of the emotional spectrum to the other. That doesn't happen very often for me. But beyond that, I don't have a lot of positives to talk about here. Hearing her voice for the first time and watching Helberg's reaction was funny! There's one. And, uhhhhhh Hugh Grant is charming oh wait I said that already. Uhhhhhhhh Meryl Streep is great but we all knew that already. Oh! Oh! Costumes! Streep's costumes were fantastic, and there was a lot of care put into everyone's outfits as well. Though Helberg looked REALLY weird wearing a wife beater at one point. Though that may have been done intentionally, however.
Well, I guess in conclusion I'll end with.........this is a cool story, and I'm glad there was a film made around it. And it's charming and good! There's nothing wrong with either. I would probably be much more enthusiastic about this film if I was watching it in August when it came out instead of now surrounded by some of the best movies of the year, but to me this film is just kind of.....there. If you take away anything from this review, it's that: Florence Foster Jenkins is good, but it's just kind of.....there. Alright that's all I got. Time for bed.
The Critique: While a charmingly good film thanks to Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins is a film that can be described as just kind of existing, and thanks to a few major missteps along the way fails to leave any sort of truly emotional punch.
The Recommendation: Fans of Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant will have a lot to like here, as will people who have been waiting for Simon Helberg to be really good outside The Big Bang Theory, but everyone else? There are better films out there worthy of your time.
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
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