Meryl Streep goes for the gold again in “Florence Foster Jenkins”

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There often seems to be two different types of Meryl Streep movies. One type is the serious awards vehicles, where she’s consistently nominated for Oscars. The other type is when she seems to be letting her hair down and having a good time, usually to be ignored by Academy members. Rarely do those two types of films intersect, but this week, it appears like that might be the case with Florence Foster Jenkins. Not only is Streep getting top notch reviews for her performances, but the film itself, despite being on the lighter side, is getting a bit of Oscar buzz as well. Perhaps this is the sort of flick that can be a crossover success for her. The early word actually indicates that yes, it can in fact be.

The movie is a biopic/dramedy about title character Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep), a New York heiress who had a long standing dream of becoming an opera singer. The catch? She has an absolutely terrible singing voice. As a nightclub owner and overall musical enthusiast, Florence longs to succeed as a singer. Against the odds, she’s set up to at least attempt success, mainly due to the help of her husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) and her pianist Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg). Stephen Frears directs from a Nicholas Martin script, while other members of the cast include Nina Arianda, Rebecca Ferguson, Christian McKay, and more. Danny Cohen contributes the cinematography, while the score is from the always busy composer Alexandre Desplat. It’s a solid crop of talent, all obviously in service of Streep, who appears to be at the top of her game, once again.

Streep is basically considered to be a national treasure, given high praise almost whenever she comes up on the screen. Luckily for her though, this time around her lighter endeavor is getting some excellent reviews, helping boost the case that she should be in line for yet another citation. To some degree, her candidacy goes without saying, but this initially had the makings of something that voters could easily ignore. That is clearly no longer the case. An August release date could be a challenge, but as you’ll see below, it definitely will have a campaign for Oscar attention launched before too long.

If we’re talking awards, you have to consider Florence Foster Jenkins a bit of a contender just due to her presence. The added bonus of it being a good flick only helps. Look for Academy Award campaigns to be announced in Best Picture, Best Director (for Frears), Best Actress (for Streep), Best Supporting Actor (for Grant), Best Original Screenplay (for Martin), Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. Most likely, it’s Streep in Actress or bust, but there’s always a chance that Desplat gets in for Original Score as well, though he has so many different possibilities this year that you never can tell this early out. Streep though, she’s definitely a legitimate player for another nomination.

Overall, this weekend brings a crowd pleaser in Florence Foster Jenkins, something clearly meant for an older audience, but perhaps just an overall mainstream one as well. Streep will bring in her fans, but the Oscar buzz might add an extra group in for good measure. It may not be the week’s most exciting new release, but it certainly is a quality one that should deliver on the mild joy that it promises. You can definitely do worse, and considering how it’s still early August, anything with legit awards hopes is something to take notice of. Give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Florence Foster Jenkins, in theaters this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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