Marguerite is loosely inspired by the story of Florence Foster Jenkins and if that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because a movie specifically about her, starring Meryl Streep will be coming out shortly. Long story short, Jenkins was a wealthy woman in the 1920s who used her wealth to fund musical endeavors. The catch? She had to always sing in the concerts and recitals she was footing the bill for; and she couldn’t sing. At all. That’s the premise Marguerite borrows and Catherine Frot is game for anything in the lead role. The first scene in which we get to hear Marguerite sing, the Queen of the Night aria if you know Mozart, is a side splitter as one of the most iconic operatic arias of all time gets butchered beyond all belief. But the film ultimately has little affection for Marguerite and though the film certainly has some humorous bits, it’s really quite dark. The real gem of the movie is Andre Marcon as Marguerite’s husband; he’s tormented by seeing her humiliate herself again and again, but he can’t bring himself to shatter the lie she’s been living for years because of the pain it would bring her to know the truth. It’s a very interior, extremely painful performance and most of the moments that really landed dramatically were courtesy of him, particularly as the film winds down. Michel Fau has to be mentioned; he gives a brilliantly funny performance as a pompous music teacher blackmailed into “teaching” Marguerite. But the film doesn’t really know what it’s up to and at over two hours, it’s simply too long. The film builds to what appears to be a climax, but then it whiffs and the film just keeps going for a solid twenty minutes or so. And the film becomes tonally quite ugly in the last half-hour or so as it reveals that the filmmakers really have no affection toward Marguerite and is willing to degrade her completely and offers none of the characters anything approximating redemption. The freeze frame at the end of the movie felt like a real spit in the eye, a dry clinical final shot that seems to mock the audience for every caring about the characters in the first place. There are a few good bits here and there and I must mention Christa Theret who gives a really quite wonderful supporting performance as perhaps the only genuinely moral character in the movie. It’s a weird, tonally scattered, somewhat mean-spirited film and ultimately failed for me a lot of levels. The fine performances can only elevate this one so far. 1 ½ stars.
tl;dr – tale of awful singer has a great premise and features some fine performances, but a poor script, scattered tone and a weird mean-spiritedness sinks the movie. 1 ½ stars.