Jenkins was a real person, a New York socialite who sang amateur operatics, at which she was terrible. She died in 1944, but recordings of her “singing” live on (unfortunately). Alas, it’s tough to find any modern resonance here, as there was in Marguerite, the recent marvelous French film loosely inspired by Jenkins. Still, it's amusing to watch a dowdied-up Meryl Streep as FFJ dodder around in apparently deliberate cluelessness about her lack of talent. And when FFJ sticks to the farce it starts out as, it works wonderfully, embracing a charming silliness that’s like something P.G. Wodehouse might have loved. But the longer it goes on, the more maudlin it gets, which is increasingly jarring given the glorious goofiness at the outset. Hugh Grant finds a sort of sneaky chill as Jenkins’s husband; he could be a comic villain, or a comic knight in shining armor, and either one would be great, but his delicious ambiguity is eventually dismissed in the least plausible way possible. It all makes for an enjoyable trifle, but it doesn’t linger any longer than Jenkins’s high notes.
Director: Stephen Frears
Producer: Michael Kuhn, Tracey Seaward, Cameron McCracken, Christine Langan and Malcolm Ritchie
Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, David Haig, John Kavanagh, Christian McKay, John Sessions, Mark Arnold, Neve Gachev, Josh O'Connor, Elliot Levey, David Menkin, Paola Dionisotti and Nat Luurtsema