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Movie Review

'Florence Foster Jenkins' Will Make You Cheer

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Florence Foster Jenkins is a couple of hours with people you like who are doing things that make you cheer them on.

Meryl Streep plays Jenkins, an elderly real-life lady in the 1940s who has a couple of eccentricities, one being the mannerisms of an old-fashioned Southern Belle and the other a very mistaken belief that she can sing opera. Hugh Grant is her more-or-less husband, who loves her deeply enough that if the delusion that she can sing is necessary for her happiness, he'll go to considerable trouble and expense to protect her from the truth.

Also memorable is Simon Helberg as her piano accompanist, sometimes bewildered by this odd situation but as fond of Streep's character as everybody else.

And in a tiny role you won't forget is Nina Arianda as a tough showgirl who would know talent if she could see it, but who has some surprises in store.

Writer Nicholas Martin and director Stephen Frears don't neglect a detail of this improbable but apparently true story, and don't try to make more drama of it that it's really worth; what Florence Foster Jenkins lacks in credibility it more than made up for in charm and good humor, with just a touch of sentiment here and there and some great character comedy wherever it fits in.

And there is real suspense: How can Grant keep the truth from Streep if she's going into a big concert in Carnegie Hall?

The very beginning establishes that this isn't all about ego: Streep is just as affected by others' music as by her own, and supports the arts with her money as well as with her own questionable efforts. If this isn't the world we live in, oh, how I wish it were. Maybe if we all tried, we could push out own world a little that way. Florence Foster Jenkins would have liked that.