Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
I don’t usually watch this kind of sappy comedy, but after Orlando, Brexit, etc. I really appreciated some superficial laughter. Florence Foster Jenkins seemed like perfectly good fun, until it wasn’t.
Meryl Streep plays the title character, an aging, rich lover of classical music whose passion is to sing opera. Unfortunately, she is not particularly gifted, but because she is also a major benefactor of New York’s classical music scene, the usual gatekeepers are all too eager to praise her talent. Cue the laughter at her awful singing attempts and increasingly preposterous career ambitions.
Despite the obvious jokes, Florence Foster Jenkins is ultimately a very sad story of a woman with a tragic past, mental and physical illness, who is encouraged in her delusions by everyone including her adulterous husband (Hugh Grant) and her greedy friends. Contrary to what the film may have intended, I did not feel sympathetic to the husband’s desperate attempts to keep his wife’s dreams and illusions alive and shelter her from the truth. In fact, I found it depressing.
To be fair: over the course of the two hours, I still managed to feel entertained, not least because of the many comedic facial expressions of Simon Helberg. But I found the narrative questionable and cannot but wonder how it compares to the French version.