For Reel

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
October 2, 2016, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Stephen Frears
3 Stars
florence-foster-jenkinsLate in Florence Foster Jenkins, a critic from the New York Post (Christian McKay) storms out of the eponymous singer’s performance, ready to decry that it was nothing but a showcase for her egotism. Because critics in movies are often villainous, it is understood that he is meant to be an insufferable elitist. The film’s most successful moments, however, lend him some credence. The key to the intriguing gray area is Hugh Grant’s surprisingly rich performance as St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), Jenkins’ husband, enabler, and perhaps even exploiter. Director Stephen Frears and Grant don’t shy away from the man’s complexities by boxing him into any description—for the purposes of the story, he can be both exploitative and genuinely affectionate at once. If Meryl Streep’s performance as the title woman will garner the most attention, Grant’s is the only performance that feels earthbound (Simon Helberg attempts to match Streep’s scenery chewing and plays bigger than he would on a sitcom). Unfortunately, the film doesn’t seem to know what to say about Jenkins by the end of it, and worse yet it suffers from a handful of misguided emotional beats along the way—when Bayfield coaxes pianist Cosme McMoon (Helberg) into a performance because of his love Jenkins, it plays as a surprise that McMoon has a genuine affection for the woman. As with Jenkins the performer, the scene attempts to indulge its crowd-pleasing tendencies but doesn’t quite have the range to make it work.

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