HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Florence Foster Jenkins
HTS Overall Score:84
We’ve all seen those YouTube wannabe singers out there. You know, the ones who think they can sing like Beyonce and croon like Sinatra, but actually sound like they’re two alley cats in heat in the back of a dumpster. Those cringe worthy performances that make you truly embarrassed for the person and have you wanting to tear out your eardrums in protest of the assault made upon them. Most of the time these people honestly believe they can sing. There’s something about their delusion that blinds themselves to the fact that they’re the BUTT of the jokes instead of just laughing along with them. However, this is not a new phenomenon. No this particular malady has been around for quite some time, the most famous being a rich heiress in New York during the final days of WWII. Miss Florence Foster Jenkins took the cake by becoming so enamored with her own “skills” that she filled out Carnegie hall in one of the most infamous concerts of all time (and you can probably guess how it turned out). Hugh Grant and Meryl Streep take a twist with a biopic out the titular lady and with the help of director Stephen Frears is able to make a delightfully charming and funny dramedy that both pulls at the corners of your mouth and your heartstrings.
For most people, society would shun them off to YouTube or Karaoke, but Florence had a little something that made her dreams of singing come true. She had money. Gobs of it in fact. She was the epitome of the rich heiress whose father died and left her scads and scads of money. Married to a mediocre actor named St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), Florence invested her money into her one true love, music. Her investment was a wise one as she became good friends with conductors like Arturo Toscanini and benefactors to a host of musical talents across the city of New York. With the help of her husband and these brown nosing sycophants her lack of talent was hidden from her for over 25 years. Papers were bought up before they could hit the street with negative reviews, and all of her concert attendees were bribed in order to give the impression that she was the belle of the ball.
However, Florence decides after years and years of being off the circuit to re-hire a voice coach once again and reinvigorate her singing career. Her first order of business is to interview and hire a pianist to accompany her lessons and she soon finds her muse in the form of Cosme McMoon (“Big Bang Theory’s” Simon Helberg), an up and coming pianist who just lucks out by playing her favorite childhood song during his interview. McMoon is completely and blissfully ignorant of Miss Jenkin’s horrid singing ability and is shocked out of his chair when he first listens to her “practice”. Kept WELL compensated by Miss Jenkins and Mr. Bayfield he is able to bite his tongue and bear the torture. Florence is once again blissfully unaware that she is horrid beyond belief until she decides to break out of her comfort zone and book Carnegie hall without her husband’s knowledge.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=86994[/img]Frear directs a competent movie, but he is helped along by a generous helping of the three leads. Streep once again magically transforms into another character that is completely and wholly her own. Completely DOMINATING the role of the quirky Miss Jenkins she is both completely loveable and pitiable at the same time. Her sense of reality is far enough away that she’s just about lost touch with it, but at other times she’s grounded enough to realize the gravity of her situation. It’s a strange dichotomy that makes Streep so fascinating to watch on screen. The same can be said for Hugh Grant, who hasn’t had a good role in years. His portrayal of St. Clair Bayfield is strangely repulsive and loving at the same time. Due to a sexless marriage thanks to Jenkins being diagnosed with Syphilis at a young age, the gentleman lovingly puts his wife to bed each night and then goes off to spend the rest of the evening with his mistress. The movie doesn’t exactly tell you outright whether the “arrangement” he and his wife share is mutual, but rather lets you wonder about the ethics of the man and whether he’s sticking around for the money or whether he really DOES love Florence as much as he says. Little nuances throughout the film clue you in to the answer, but the path to get there is all on the audience.
The real star of “Florence Foster Jenkins” is Simon Helberg and watching him react to Florence’s voice. His reactions and shocked expressions when confronted with the singing “talents” of Miss Jenkins is HYSTERICAL to watch. It’s like watching a three stooges comedy all rolled into one person whenever he’s on screen. That’s not to say he wildly outshines anyone else, but his humorous facial queues make up some of the best scenes of the movie. The dramedy sometimes takes itself a bit too seriously, but there is a delicate balance between slapstick humor based off of a person’s delusion, and a sweet lesson on living life to the fullest, even if you aren’t the most talented person on earth.
Rated PG-13 for brief suggestive material
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87002[/img]“Florence Foster Jenkins” sports a simply magnificent 2.39:1 AVC encode Blu-ray. Shot using the Arri Alexa digital cameras, the film enjoys a very lusciously colored and stylized period piece shading that is rich in bright primary colors and definitely a bit on the warm side of the spectrum. Just look at the yellow cars with red splashes on them as they come around Carnegie Hall, or the amazingly white and pale blue dresses for the attendees. The colors almost pop off the screen with a sense of depth and saturation that is a beauty to behold. Fine detail is exquisite, with individual fibers and weaves on intricate party dresses fully visible, or the lines and light greying done to Hugh Grant to give him a slightly aged look. Black levels are deep and inky, and even within the shadows of Miss Jenkin’s lavish house everything is perfectly detailed, both in shadow and without. Skin tones tend to be a little warmish, but still well balanced and the contrast is smooth and clean throughout.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=87010[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio track is just as superb as its video counterpart. The movie is definitely a bit talky, but the copious amount of musical numbers and singing throughout give the mix a very vibrant and bouncy feel. Even the sounds of New York City in the background light up the surround channels with all sorts of ambient city noises. Dialog is well replicated and pitch perfect from beginning to end, whether Meryl Streep is caterwauling like a dying beast or using her elegant upscale New York City speech patterns when in “aristocrat” mode. The LFE is used nicely in several points of the film, especially when in Carnegie hall. For a dramatic film, “Florence Foster Jenkins” is a surprisingly agile and energetic track that teems with activity and a vivacious sense of excitement.
• Deleted Scenes
• “Ours is a Happy World”
• The Music and Songs of Florence
• Designing the Look
• From Script to Screen
• Florence Foster Jenkins World Premiere
• Q&A with Meryl Streep
• Live at Carnegie Hall
“Florence Foster Jenkins” is a delightfully charming dramedy that almost passed under my radar. I remember it hitting theaters but the trailer made it look like something that I wouldn’t be even remotely interested in. Thankfully this review was able to change my mind as I had a complete blast laughing along and wiping away a few tears through the watch. Streep, Grant and Helberg do a magnificent job with their respective roles and Frear infuses the right amount of levity into the experience to keep the drama from too overwhelming and vice versa. The video and audio scores are well worth it and there’s s a surprising amount of solid extras on the combo pack. Definitely worth checking out.
Starring: Hugh Grant, Meryl Streep, Simon Helberg
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by: Nicholas Martin
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Runtime: 110 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 13th, 2016
Buy Florence Foster Jenkins On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Check it Out
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