Inspired by the incredible true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, Xavier Giannoli’s new drama tells the story of Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot), an aspiring opera singer in 1920s France with an untameable passion for music and a simply terrible voice.
Divided in five different chapters, Marguerite’s life plays out like that of a true operatic heroine. As the star of a charity concert performance, hosted at her own magnificent mansion, the rich and famous Marguerite follows the preparation routine of a seasoned professional. While her husband Georges (Andre Marcon) purposefully misses the performance, the other guests keep a straight face and overwhelm Marguerite with flowers and (fake) compliments. “Did she always sing like that?” “No, she’s come a long way.”
When the provocative journalist Lucien Beaumont (Sylvain Dieuaide) publishes a raving review about her intense performance, and invites Marguerite to perform in Paris, new feelings and ambitions arise that require her to take on proper training. Marguerite hires an eccentric tutor, Atos Pezzini (Michel Fau), whose unconventional exercises are deliciously entertaining. Although Marguerite’s newly forged friendships and seemingly successful training sessions boost her confidence, her personal life is agonising as ever. Her unsupportive husband Georges spends more and more time with his mistress, while his wife’s obsession with opera singing takes a dark turn.
Marguerite becomes increasingly delusional, imagining that her living rooms singing sessions took place in the most prestigious music venues across the world. Tragically, the further down the rabbit hole she falls, the more Georges is drawn back to her. It seems like her delusional episodes are able to save her marriage before they end life as she knows it.
Giannoli’s film is funny, inspiring and heartbreaking, all at the same time. It is no surprise that Marguerite received seven nominations for the 2016 Cesar Awards and managed to take four home; the 1920s production design is exquisite, Catherine Frot’s performance is brilliant and the music is simply wonderful.
‘The sublime and the ridiculous are never far apart,’ Pezzini tells his pupil. It seems to be the perfect way to sum up this fascinating leading lady.
Marguerite opens nationwide on Friday 18 March: margueritefilm.co.uk.
Showing at Picturehouse at National Media Museum from Friday 25 March: picturehouses.com.