'It's a celebration of some of the odd formations that love and family fall into these days,' says the 'Florence Foster Jenkins' star

By Sara Vilkomerson
Updated August 10, 2016 at 04:01 PM EDT
Credit: Nick Wall

With this weekend’s Florence Foster Jenkins we finally get — hooray! — Hugh Grant back on the big screen again. And in super fine form, too, delivering the sort of career-altering turn that makes critics swoon and sparks Academy Award speculation. “It was funny and it was sad which is always a promising cocktail. And it was classy,” Grant says of the script. “Even though I was kind of in a phase of my life when I wasn’t doing much show business — or really wanting to — I couldn’t say no to it. I would never have been able to look myself in the eye.”

Set in 1940s New York, Florence Foster Jenkins dramatizes the real-life story of an heiress and socialite, played by Meryl Streep, who believes she’s a talented opera singer despite all evidence to the contrary. Her husband, manager, and chief protector, St. Clair Bayfield (Grant) — dashing and debonair and silkily impossible to ruffle — goes to incredible lengths to indulge his wife’s creative pursuits. But St. Clair is a complicated fellow living a much more complex life that it seems, and the secrets and true intentions within his heart are kept lurking beneath the surface for much of the film. Their union — without spoilers — is an unconventional one.

“We all have this idea of the ideal I-would-throw-myself-under-a-train-for-you selfless love,” Grant says. “I think that’s extremely rare. Very often it’s all mixed up. It’s what attracted me to the whole project.… It’s a celebration of some of the odd formations that love and family fall into these days.”

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Florence Foster Jenkins

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 110 minutes
  • Stephen Frears