“Marguerite”: A pleasurable stroll through the life of legendarily terrible opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins starring Catherine Frot. 3 stars out of 4.
It’s 1921 at a storybook castle of a house outside Paris, where a picture-perfect party and concert is taking place. As two sopranos sing a shimmering duet, beautifully dressed guests eye the sumptuous array of food and a peacock delicately strolls the manicured grounds; you can practically smell the expensive perfume in the air.
Finally, the hostess and featured performer, wealthy Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot), steps up to perform a Mozart aria for the assemblage. She opens her mouth, and out comes — well, a random collection of notes, seemingly shoved out of her throat, each one capable of peeling paint off the elegant walls.
“Marguerite,” from filmmaker Xavier Giannoli, is fiction, but lightly so: It’s inspired by the real-life story of legendarily terrible American opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins (who’ll be getting her own biopic later this year, starring Meryl Streep). Though an uneven film — there’s a tonal shift in its final third that’s disconcerting, and a couple of characters are abandoned midway through — it’s nonetheless a pleasure to watch. Frot’s performance, as a woman so caught up in the joy of music that she doesn’t quite understand how bad she is, is particularly delightful, and often quite moving. In one scene, Marguerite is at the opera listening to a performance, and you see every note on her silent face as she watches — she’s lost, happily, in glorious noise.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Marguerite,’ with Catherine Frot, André Marcon, Michel Fau, Christa Théret, Denis Mpunga. Directed by Xavier Giannoli, from a screenplay by Giannoli and Marcia Romano. 127 minutes. Rated R for brief graphic nudity and sexual content, and a scene of drug use. In French with English subtitles. Seven Gables.