Meryl Streep can’t sing in Stephen Frear’s Florence Foster Jenkins, a gently ironic comedy about privilege. Based on the true story of the Camp icon from the first half of the twentieth century, Florence Foster Jenkins turns the aspirational narrative on its head, telling the story of a mediocre singer who, indirectly, uses wealth to achieve a certain kind of success: singing at Carnegie Hall. Hugh Grant, in an excellent supporting role, plays Florence’s philandering husband and caretaker, who insulates her from the truth by bribing critics and restricting access to her performances. Opera fans, even while snickering, will delight in the set pieces; non-fans, on the other hand, may find it amusing initially—and then yawn. Simon Helberg plays Florence’s pianist, who gives up an attempt at a serious career by joining a constellation of sycophants in Florence’s Universe, and learns to pretend that the Emperor’s New Clothes are gorgeous. Clearly, his ambitions are naked.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White