The Bock’s Office: ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ — Music at its worst, Streep at her finest | SteamboatToday.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ — Music at its worst, Streep at her finest

Andy Bockelman

Florence (Meryl Streep) looks over some sheet music in "Florence Foster Jenkins." The movie is about a wealthy woman in the 1940s who embarks on a singing career despite having very little talent.

With enough determination and effort, anyone can do something well and be recognized for their hard work. However, it takes a special kind of someone like the star of "Florence Foster Jenkins" to do something so poorly, so unapologetically wretched and still be genuinely inspiring.

If you go…

"Florence Foster Jenkins," rated PG-13

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Running time: 110 minutes

Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg and Rebecca Ferguson

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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In 1944 New York City, one of the premier sites for cultural entertainment is the Verdi Club, owned by patroness of the fine arts, Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep), a lifelong supporter of music, theater and opera, along with her husband, former actor St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant).

After a hiatus from performing personally, Florence decides to reintroduce herself her singing style to the world, hiring an accompanist (Simon Helberg) as she gets back into practice.

While high society awaits her return, there's only one problem: her vocal abilities are almost non-existent.

While the young pianist doesn't know what to make of his employer's total tone-deafness, her spouse already has a system in place for handling recitals and ensuring Florence is not humiliated.

Unfortunately, the word of mouth that comes with such a famous woman inevitably means the public demands to hear the illustrious songbird who doesn't seem to realize her own lack of talent.

Casting for the eponymous role could have gone one of two ways — find an actress who simply has no musical experience or give the part to a woman who knows how to sing but can still make a show out of doing everything the wrong way.

Streep's got a good set of pipes, as she's proved more and more in the last decade, and maybe it's because she has the ability that she knows how to be so good at being completely awful as the lady who understands everything about musical theory and lingo yet is nonetheless oblivious to how she sounds.

Grant also shines as her partner, a small-time Shakespearean thespian whose greatest façade is pretending his wife's performances aren't ear-splitting racket.

In his role as pianist Cosmé McMoon, Helberg is even more neurotic than he is on "The Big Bang Theory" as a dedicated musician unsure he wants his name attached to someone who can barely stay on pitch while humming, let alone during the complex operatic pieces she thinks she's mastered.

With films like "The Queen," "Mrs. Henderson Presents" and "Philomena," director Stephen Frears keeps returning to projects about women of a certain age that blend light comedy with some terribly dark moments. His latest is more of the former, especially given some of Florence's eccentricities, but the heavy drama comes too soon and reveals too much as we learn of Florence's frailty and find out she's not just a deluded dowager with too much money and not enough time in the world to become an sufficient chanteuse.

We'd be on her side either way, but at least give us some ambiguity.

It's almost entirely thanks to Streep that the movie works as a full film, as she captures the spirit of the music that her real-life character — who counted Arturo Toscanini and Cole Porter among her fans — performs, tapping into the kind of joy that comes from a true passion within, regardless of whether the people watching you are clapping or laughing.

A whimsical score by Alexandre Desplat counterbalances Florence's shrieking style, so if you're thinking of bringing earplugs, think again.

Whether we're talking about the movie or the person, "Florence Foster Jenkins" is an example of rising above mediocrity with the right person and the right perspective. After all, if Ed Wood and Antonio Salieri can be portrayed as being great even with their shortcomings, why not her?

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go…

“Florence Foster Jenkins,” rated PG-13

Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

Running time: 110 minutes

Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg and Rebecca Ferguson

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.