Wednesday, 11 May 2016

REVIEW - FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (STEPHEN FREARS)


Stephen Frears' Florence Foster Jenkins is a movie about art, or about the absence thereof. It's rather a shame that its treatment of such a sensational story should emulate its subject's simple-minded cluelessness - where she brought great joy and pain alike, and experienced both in even greater amount, this film inspires little more than apathetic appreciation. It's a shoddy showcase for Frears, whose unearned reputation as a mere competent journeyman won't be aided by this unadventurous piece; in fact, Frears contributes an incessant energy to Nicholas Martin's limited, lacklustre screenplay, and keeps the film interesting. As indeed it ought to be - Florence Foster Jenkins herself was a most interesting character, though both Martin and Meryl Streep only momentarily motion toward her many idiosyncrasies, preferring instead a surface-deep portrayal of this woman. They only toy with those idiosyncrasies, proffering whimsical tics and quirks in lieu of substantial characterisation. It's sufficient for light comedy, which Florence Foster Jenkins rarely strives to aspire beyond, but forces one to question if Florence herself is sufficient for light comedy. After all, the film's most persuasive patches are its most dramatic ones, as intelligent, astute grace notes of genuine emotional gravitas are eked out, not least due to the sensitive performances of Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg. They steal the show from Streep, with adequately formed roles to which each actor commits himself with diligence and care. It's in service of a relatively artless film - it doesn't even have the respect for its music to actually present it properly - but a film that's full of art, joy and, regrettably, pain nonetheless.