*** out of ****
The latest Oscar-bait to star Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins, is honestly decent, thanks to the dependable humor and energy of director Stephen Frears. Set during World War II, the story is about a real-life New York heiress and classical music socialite who lived in the delusion that she had a beautiful singing voice, which… she… didn’t.
The film mostly focuses on Hugh Grant as her platonic husband St. Clair Bayfield, who farcically works hard to insulate Jenkins from the reality of her reputation as a dreadful singer.
The audience surrogate is found in Cosme McMoon, a classically trained pianist, hired by Bayfield to accompany Jenkins' attempt to breakout as an opera singer. McMoon is played by the Simon Helberg, the thirty-six-year-old character-actor whose fame has gradually grown since Big Bang Theory premiered in 2007. His role as the perplexed young musician who is suffering the personal crisis of compromising his respectability for a huge paycheck compliments Streep's energy as a clueless lady with delusions of virtuosity.
While the film's well-off title character, who could afford to be anything she wanted, is hardly an underdog story, there is a tragic side to this person worthy of our sympathy, but the movie focuses on the love of an art-form and how it can drive someone to give everything they have to be close to it, even if they're just no good at it.