Considered by many to be the best actress of her generation, Meryl Streep gamely takes on the role of Florence Foster Jenkins, a woman who would have to have been considered her opposite. A patron of the arts in New York City during the first half of the twentieth century, she also fancied herself a singer, despite not being able to carry a tune in a bucket. However, access to a lot of money and a delusion on a grand scale allowed Florence to believe she had real talent.
A widow, Jenkins has been remarried for some years to the younger, doting St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), although it is soon made clear that theirs is a marriage of a certain convenience. Bayfield provides Florence with emotional support while making sure that her public performances are attended only by “true music lovers”–hard of-hearing dowagers and those who’ve been paid to attend and applaud–Of course, Florence is bankrolling each of her concerts, but the whether she realizes just how much “work” Bayfield has to do on her behalf to create the appearance of a genuine career remains murky. Bayfield knows his wife can’t sing, but he never betrays that to her. While he and Florence obviously care for each other, Florence is knowingly funding a separate life for her husband, which includes an apartment and a young girlfriend (Rebecca Ferguson).
While Meryl Streep will rightly receive praise for her work here, Simon Helberg shouldn’t be overlooked. As Jenkins’s piano player Cosmé McMoon, he comes into the story simply as a musician looking for a job. Thinking Florence is a real singer, his facial expressions the first time he hears her voice is priceless. He knows immediately how bad she is and he soon worries about how being associated with her will affect his own chances of a career. In the end though, Cosmé’s time with Florence teaches him some unexpected things about her and more importantly himself.
While director Stephen Frears doesn’t dig too deeply into the darker aspects of Florence Foster Jenkins’s life, he reveals enough to give us an inkling into what made this woman tick. While it would have been interesting to get more information on some of the relationships in the story, as it is, watching Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg onscreen, elicits some memorable moments. Combine that with the beautifully recreated backdrop of mid-century New York City and Florence Foster Jenkins is well worth watching.
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Paramount has provided a solid 1080p transfer. Definition is accurate and concise with no apparent softness. There are no print flaws and the image appears clean. The palette leans toward golden tones with teal hues. This fits in with the film’s stylistic choices and rather subdued (other than Florence’s costumes), mid-century look. Blacks are appropriate and shadows well delineated.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track won’t blow anyone away, but it does its job well. The surrounds are largely used for ambience, though they occasionally come into play during Florence’s forays into singing. The minimal score is rich and full. Dialogue, a key component here, is clean and clear throughout the presentation.
English and Spanish subtitles are included
The following extras are available:
- Ours Is a Happy World (HD, 5:01) In this general overview of the story and characters, we hear from director Stephen Frears, screenwriter Nicholas Martin, and actors Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg.
- The Music And Songs of Florence (HD, 4:01) In this look at the film’s musical performances, we hear from Streep, Helberg, Grant, musical director Terry Davies and composer Alexandre Desplat.
- Designing the Look (HD, 3:43) In this look at the set and costume design, we hear from costume designer Consolata Boyle, production designer Alan MacDonald.
- From Script to Screen (HD, 4:18) In this discussion surrounding the process of bringing the script to the screen, we hear from Martin, Frears, Streep, Grant, Helberg, producer Michael Kuhn, and actors Nina Arianda and Rebecca Ferguson.
- World Premiere (HD, 1:58) Brief footage the red carpet.
- Q & A with Meryl Streep (HD,16:16) In this public Q & A, Streep discusses her character and performance, costumes and music, and inspirations. Charming as she is, Streep provides largely surface stuff here.
- Live at Carnegie Hall (HD, 10:09) Some history of Carnegie Hall, with an emphasis on Jenkins’s appearance there.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 6:08) “Maestro Orlando!” (0:35), “Backstage Valkyries and Mrs. Vanderbilt” (1:09), “Running Errands with Biassy” (0:36) and “Queen of the Night” (3:48).
- DVD of the film.
- Digital HD.
- UltraViolet Copy.