Truth can be, as often stated, stranger than fiction. Such is the case with Paramount Home Media’s announcement this past week that director Stephen Frears — who has been a fan of biopics with such offerings as Philomena, The Queen and Mrs. Henderson Presents — will see his latest, Florence Foster Jenkins, released as both DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack offerings on Dec. 13.
The ARR comes in at 123 days and domestic ticket sales currently stand at $27.3 million.
We pick up the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, as played by Meryl Streep, at the end of her “career” as a singer and stage performer. If you remember that running joke in the musical, Singin’ in the Rain, where Jean Hagen’s character — who is a major star at the dawn of sound movies — can’t sing. Well, that’s Florence Foster Jenkins … she is dreadful.
In real life Jenkins had a trust fund left to her by her father, which gave her the freedom from the 1910s into the tumultuous days of World War II to be both a patron of the arts and stage small plays and musical theatre productions for the haute société of New York.
She would be the star, often dressed in elaborate costumes of her own design, and lead singer. She was a dreadful singer, but managed over the years to build something of a “cult” following. For dramatic reasons this history is compressed into an end-of-career comeback story — which is fine as Streep plays the mature Jenkins to a tee.
There are a couple of other backstory elements that filmmaker Stephen Frears did capture and encapsulate into this winning “dramedy” … Jenkins first husband did give her syphilis, she never spoke to him again, but there is no evidence in the public record that they ever divorced. And, for the last 40 years of her life she did live with a Brit named St. Clair Bayfield (played by Hugh Grant) … there is also no public record that they ever married.
After years of staging her intimate productions, and, as mentioned building something of a cult following, she decided to book Carnegie Hall in the fall of 1944 for an elaborate production to entertain those in the military. The run up to this big event is the central focus of the film, which plays out marvelously well.
Bonus features, which are limited to the Blu-ray SKU, included a Q&A session with Meryl Streep, footage of the film’s world premiere, deleted scenes and four production featurettes — “Ours is a Happy World,” “Designing the Look,” “From Script to Screen” and “The Music and Songs of Florence.”