In a world filled with harsh words, to say the least, aimed at people who dare to show their passion even without talent, Florence Foster Jenkins is a compassionate look at a rich woman whose opera aspirations far exceeded her talent – or the glaring lack thereof. With Meryl Streep in the title role and Hugh Grant in a major role, the movie is just so much fun to watch! You just have to watch it at a Regal theater with your family and friends and have a blast while you’re at it, never mind the squawking from Jenkins’ mouth.
Money Changes Everything
Florence Foster Jenkins is actually a 20th century New York socialite whose aspirations to become a legendary opera singer aren’t matched by her voice. She has a flat pitch that couldn’t be saved by any opera training, a voice that sounds like a laying goose on helium, and a sense of musicality that’s neither here nor there. In short, she’s the worst opera singer the world has yet seen on stage.
But Jenkins has one thing that many aspiring singers without talent in any genre possesses – money, plenty of inherited money from her father. She can then afford to perform in private venues for family and friends, throw parties in her honor, and get the best music training money can buy. She may not have been as successful as world-famous opera divas with their hundreds of appearances in their careers – Jenkins only appeared once on stage in Carnegie Hall where she literally huffs and puffs, screams and squawks, and commits auditory murder in the first degree – but she was loved by her family and friends.
Jenkins was, after all, a woman after our own heart. She’s not afraid to pursue her passions even at the risk of being humiliated by others. She’s not afraid to love even when it can cost her heart. She’s not afraid to go down in flames for as long as she soared high first and, in the process, also let others soar with her – she was also a generous patron of the arts.
Streep’s Brilliancy Shines
Of course, such a complex woman needs a complex actress to portray her – and Meryl Streep certainly shines as Jenkins here! Streep completely embodies the title character from her matronly appearance to her squawking voice, all of which belies the fact that she has early opera training. She can sing as badly as she can sing well, as is the case in Mama Mia!
But Streep gets help, so to speak, from her two leading men in the movie. Hugh Grant plays St. Clair Bayfield, Jenkins’ common-law husband who dotes on her and calls her bunny rabbit, and Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon, her accompanist who comes to respect and love her in the course of their work.