|Meryl does Florence.|
Florence rose to fame first for her philanthropy pertaining to her love of music and next for her outlandish and amateurish attempts at operatic singing. In the title role, Streep dons silly wigs, ornate costumes, tons of makeup and a fat suit to portray the aging would-be singer. But the real star of the movie is her voice: Horrendously off-key, reminiscent of a feral cat wailing in the night, everyone can hear how bad it is except the singer herself who, having battled a chronic disease for most of her life, may be slightly off her rocker. Hugh Grant is endearing as Florence's loving, kept companion, a failed actor who tries his best to shield her from understanding that people are laughing at her behind her back. He succeeds by pressing fifty and hundred dollar bills into the open palms of music critics and others with influence inside her small circle.
Aided by a talented young pianist hired to accompany her at small, private concerts and ultimately a giant public one at Carnegie Hall, Florence lurches simultaneously towards her outlandish stardom and eventual death. Her journey is by turns howlingly funny and abruptly sad. All the while we get to see the colorful New York of the 1930s and 40s, with its flapper dresses and spats, lovely vintage cars and fancy hotel living. The film, deftly directed by veteran Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena, The Grifters, Dangerous Liaisons) is fun and funny, and gives a glimpse into an unforgettable life worth knowing about.