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Florence Foster Jenkins review: Meryl and Hugh in fine tune

By Damon Smith

Anchored by tour-de-force performances from Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant that perfectly harmonise humour and pathos, Florence Foster Jenkins is an unabashedly joyful period piece that stands resolutely behind the eponymous socialite as she massacres the Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus or the Queen Of The Night aria from The Magic Flute.

Florence (Streep) is determined to further her musical ambitions with the help of her second husband and doting companion, St Clair (Grant). The couple audition several accompanists but they fail to meet Florence's exacting standards. Cosme Moon (Simon Helberg) eventually lands the position of Florence's pianist and his first experience of Florence in full voice is played for tear-streaming belly laughs by Frears.

The grand dame pays Cosme well and he gradually falls under his wealthy employer's spell, acknowledging that she is just following her dream. Vocal coach Carlo Edwards (David Haig) and venerated conductor Arturo Toscanini (John Kavanagh) prepare Florence for a big concert at the world-famous Carnegie Hall.

However, St Clair worries that the stress of the forthcoming engagement is playing havoc with her faltering health.

Four stars

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