Berlin (dpa) – To be a star once, admired and cheered by crowds – this is not only the wish of many people without talent in the age of Youtube, Instagram and Tiktok.
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As early as the 1940s, a wealthy American dreamed of shining as an opera diva. She recorded records and rented concert halls – but she couldn’t sing at all. With her weird tones, Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) nevertheless became legendary and later even inspired several playwrights.
The very famous British director Stephen Frears (“The Queen”) also tells their tragicomic true story based on the screenplay by Nicholas Martin in his biopic “Florence Foster Jenkins” on Sunday at 8:15 pm on Arte. With Meryl Streep (“Mamma Mia!”) In the title role as well as her husband with the English heartthrob Hugh Grant (“Bridget Jones – Chocolate for Breakfast”), who shows himself here from a more mature side, it is beguilingly cast.
You can experience an entertaining, old-fashioned feel-good film, which also portrays the lavish ambience of New York society in the war years with real and fake antiques, large cars and flower bouquets, silk robes and glittering jewelry.
There the main character lives in her own world, which she can create with the money inherited from her father. Fortune and patronage also allow her to take singing lessons from luminaries who speak to her.
Still, Frears’ film doesn’t make Foster Jenkins a laughing stock. With her nuanced acting skills, Streep also discreetly depicts the misery that lies behind the music lover’s grotesque urge for recognition. Because early on she had contracted syphilis from her first husband and therefore had to cover her bald head with a wig all her life. And with her glamorous partner St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) she then led an apparently particularly loving, but only platonic and childless second marriage.
The story begins with an appearance in which Bayfield, a second-rate actor, recites “Hamlet” and his 70-year-old, heavyweight wife floats from the stage as an angel with a golden lyre. And it ends in the renowned Carnegie Hall, where the amateur as Mozart’s Queen of the Night, alongside the young pianist McMoon (Simon Helberg) hired by her, fires her failed coloratura against mercilessly smirking and rampaging soldiers and Navy Marines. An indignant music critic present was not stopped by Bayfield’s attempts at bribery and wrote an angry tirade. It is a text that literally offends Foster Jenkins to death when she finds the newspaper hidden from her in the trash can.
On her deathbed, she whispers historically verified words to her husband in the film: “People may say that I can’t sing. But nobody can say that I haven’t sung.” You can only applaud.