Delusion is sometimes shared—even among a whole crowd of people—but it’s seldom perpetuated in one individual by everyone around her, as in this film, Marguerite (performed expertly by Catherine Frot). Marguerite’s husband, Georges (Marcon) is convinced that it would kill her to learn the truth—that is, that she sings noticeably off key. And it’s astounding to see the lengths to which people will go to maintain her delusion. (She does not appear to have any insight into her failing.) Some are paid to flatter her, which is perhaps more understandable than when it’s done without recompense.
Marguerite is from a wealthy family and has married a baron, Georges. She has a passion for music and says she sings 4-5 hours a day. She seems to want mostly to please her husband, but somehow, his car is always breaking down and he arrives late to her concerts performed in their mansion. At one point, some unscrupulous young men see an opportunity to exploit her, and arrange for her to sing in more public places and to engage a voice teacher (Fau) for her. She is so flattered and touched by the attention, she seems to blossom, even though her voice gets no better.
She becomes ill a couple of times, and Georges tactfully tries to get her to rest her voice and stop singing, but her doctor says that’s not necessary; however, this is before he hears her sing. After the doctor attends a concert, he and Georges devise a plan that is supposed to convince her to stop performing. However, it does not turn out exactly as they hope.
French director Xavier Giannoli wrote the screenplay and directed this farce/drama that is taking place in the 1920’s. It is well done, keeping its audience engaged—though antsy during Marguerite’s songs—and with a fine cast. I think it would have been better if the bad singing had been made less pronounced; as it is, it’s rather absurd, especially since Marguerite recognizes good musical performances of others. The film is based on a true story, but I doubt the real woman (Florence Foster Jenkins) sang this far off key.
Catherine Frot maintains a wide-eyed look and ebullient personality throughout, although she certainly has some thoughtful moments. But she is basically an optimist who looks on the bright side of life. Her faithful butler Madelbos (Mpunga) almost worships her and takes countless photos of her, but he too cannot resist hoping to realize a profit from the pictures one day. Marcon shows his character to be genuine and mostly sincere and honorable; he just doesn’t seem to know what to do with the situation.
A farce about a woman of ambition who can’t hear herself singing off key.
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland