As acting goes, both Meryl Steep and Hugh Grant pulled another rabbit out of their hats in Stephen Frears’ latest blend of the comic and the melodramatic. So Streep can also sing badly very well – what can’t she do – but it is Grant who perhaps shines freshest in a role although apparently perfect for him as philandering well-to-do fellow, displaying a range of underlying , impressive emotion, the likes of which we can be forgiven for not seeing him do before. As us and the on screen audience endure Florence’s woeful singing, Grant’s Bayfield encapsulates the inner turmoil given the social repercussions were he not to keep up appearances.
Although a jolly good time we have with these characters and the portion of story about Florence Foster Jenkins’ life as a vocal performer, we do have to keep going back to the same concept of the laughing audience, and the concealment of the eccentric warbling. That’s all well and good, but if it were not for the varied range of acting, the gorgeous set / costume design, and a fairly accomplished script, this might get left behind in the mediocre drawer. The main problem with such a lavish picture, is that the set-up provides a welcome amount of comic energy, while dangling the dramatic carrot for so long the laughter soon simmers.
Frears has made better movies, that’s not up for debate, but we so longed for this to be better – or at least enjoy it a whole more. A good film experience all the same, once again hats off to Mrs. Streep and Mr. Grant, both jump out of the screen and carry us to the finish line. A first Academy Award nomination for Grant would be no surprise, whereas Streep would likely cause a stir if she does not make the list for Best Actress (would be her trillionth nomination) – portraying a character who is a laughing stock, a woman with ample decency, and suffering through illness, only adds to her excellence.