By Meherina Khan
“Florence Foster Jenkins” is a biographical comedy that follows the eponymous New York socialite and philanthropist, played by Meryl Streep, as she strives to establish herself as a passionate—though not very talented—opera singer. Although enthusiastic, every yelp and moan was so awful; it was hard to suppress the tears and winces that came along with hearing such an unpleasant voice.
As a rich patron of the arts, it wasn’t hard for Jenkins to buy out Carnegie Hall and live out her deeply vested dream to perform. Her concert became legendary—more for her ability to be tone deaf rather than her skill to carry a botched tune.
Despite her delusional disposition concerning her “great talent” on the stage, it’s hard not to be sympathetic to Streep’s portrayal of the title character. With her declining health due to a disease that forced her to give up her pursuit to become an established pianist more than 50 years ago, Jenkins continues to chase her dreams. In this day and age, it’s hard to find a movie that stars an elderly woman and her drive to share her love with the world. While Streep is one of the most renowned vocalists in Hollywood, she delivers another Oscar-worthy acting performance with her dreadful voice and quirky antics.
But the breakout star of the film is Simon Helberg, who plays the awkward but charming Cosme McMoon, an ambitious pianist and composer who aims to be discovered for his talent so that he can perform at the world’s greatest venues. When he is hired to accompany Jenkins during her voice lessons, it’s amusing to see his appalled and pained expressions as he listens to Jenkins’ voice, which sounds like dying monkeys. He is initially reluctant to play alongside Jenkins during her concerts because he believes she will lead to a downfall in his career. But Helberg does an amazing job displaying McMoon’s development, starting with his struggle to hide his fits of hysterics and giggles toward Jenkins’ lack of musical ability to becoming one of her most trusted friends and adamant supporters.
The cinematography really enhanced the storytelling, though some abrupt transitions left the audience confused due to a conflict with the flow and progression of the plot. But besides this minor technical issue, the set and costumes reflected the elaborate and exquisite styles found in most upper-class societies during the era. The musical score perfectly complements the film and expresses the appropriate moods in each scene—playing music that is both tasteful and fits the era that the film portrays.
“Florence Foster Jenkins” is more than just a movie about white, aristocratic privilege. It’s a call for everyone to pursue their desires in spite of possible obstacles —whether it be lack of talent or lack of an audience.