Rooms, costumes and people all look rather lovely. You’re in a hotel in 1944 New York City and then you’re in Carnegie Hall. It’s all bathed in luxury although reminders of World War 2 linger, in the shadows.
Our heroine Florence (Meryl Streep) believes she can sing, despite quite a lot of evidence to the contrary. Florence is rich enough that she can buy acolytes, audiences and anything she pleases. She’s even bought a devoted husband, St Clair, played by Hugh Grant, who gets to reprise his elegant cad act.
The first hour of this whooshes by, lifted by Simon Helberg as pianist Cosme McMoom. Each time Nina Arianda is on screen, as former showgirl Agnes Stark, the screen lights up. She’s fabulous and worth looking out for. Her sense of fun brings real joy to this movie.
As the story unfolds, it all depends on your sympathy moving between Florence and St Clair. Unfortunately, you wait for Agnes to come in again as, until she appears, you care much more about the lovely clothing and settings than you do about the people.
Much of this was filmed in Glasgow and Liverpool and this creates a fine substitute for 1944 New York City.
For me, the last part of the film fell a little flat. The rest of the audience at Stratford East Picturehouse seemed to be enjoying it much more than I did. Maybe the trials of the delusional rich mean little to me, even when they are given touching back stories?
It’s quite a knack to sing badly. But I never warmed to Meryl Streep’s performance, nor to Florence’s sad tale.
See it if you are really into beautiful clothes or just for Nina Arandia’s performance. And watch out for Georgina Morton who has a small but significant part.