Combustible Celluloid
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With: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Stanley Townsend, Allan Corduner, Christian McKay, David Haig, John Sessions
Written by: Nicholas Martin
Directed by: Stephen Frears
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief suggestive material
Running Time: 111
Date: 08/12/2016

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

No Such Sing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Meryl Streep stars in this based-on-a-true-story drama, with a fairly tough job to do. As the title character, she has to sound like someone who has opera training, but is still unable to sing a lick; she has to make big sounds and have them come out comically wrong. She, of course, nails it, but the real heavy lifting in this movie is done by Hugh Grant as her husband St. Clair, and Simon Helberg as Cosmé McMoon, the nervously smiling pianist she has hired to accompany her. Florence Foster Jenkins takes place in the 1940s, and the joke is that, because the world is at war, people need whatever laughs they can get and Florence's records and concerts become very popular as comedy, even though Florence herself is unaware of this. Writer Nicholas Martin and director Stephen Frears bring a certain amount of class to the story; it doesn't resort to lazy or stupid slapstick or farce, and the weight of the relationships with the male characters come through, even if Florence's own single-minded delusion makes her the least interesting of the trio. (She eats lots of potato salad, carries a mysterious briefcase, etc.) It received an Oscar nomination for Costume Design, and Streep received her 20th nomination for acting, although she could just as easily have been nominated for her Golden Globes speech a few weeks earlier.

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