SATURDAY, 10 DECEMBER – 7.30pm
FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
2015 | UK | Biography-Drama | Directed by Stephen Frears. Starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Alan Corduner. 111 min. Rated PG.
Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena, My Beautiful Laundrette) directs Meryl Streep in the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, the New York heiress who believed, incorrectly, that she could sing. A significant patron of the arts during the Second World War, Foster Jenkins provided musical instruments for underprivileged children and set up The Verdi Club where she produced, directed and starred in tacky shows for select members of high society. But she always wanted to sing opera, despite her tone-deafness and distinct lack of talent — blissfully unaware that while the voice she hears in her head is beautiful, to her audience, it’s comically bad. Her manager-husband, aristocratic English actor St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), lovingly protects her from this painful reality, while her exasperated accompanist (played by The Big Bang Theory‘s Simon Helberg) works hard to keep a straight face. But when she decides to give a public concert at Carnegie Hall in 1944, St Clair faces his greatest challenge yet.
An almost unbelievable true story of self-delusion (it was recently tapped as inspiration for the French-language film Marguerite) but also a heartening look at the power of self-belief, Florence Foster Jenkins offers excellent central, poignant performances – with Streep typically brilliant (a trained coloratura soprano, she had to work hard at singing badly) and Grant on restrained, unusually steely form – in a film that’s got warmth, humour and charm to spare. As the real Florence summed up her life, ‘People may say I can’t sing, but no one can say I didn’t sing.’
In our now annual tradition, Christmas refreshments will be served after the film.