There’s an odd, addictive feeling to watching people with bad voices sing. Not sure whether to cringe or laugh, it’s often how I feel when watching “American Idol” auditions. The question is always this: Do they really not know how bad they sound? Did no one ever tell them? But, it seems, some are quite content with living in a delusion of grandeur. One of these people was singer Florence Foster Jenkins, who was convinced that she was a phenomenal coloratura soprano. Believing in her abilities so much, she rented out a concert hall, screeching to everyone who could hear the off-key notes she could never hit.
Inspired by Florence Foster Jenkins’ story, “Marguerite” follows Catherine Frot in the title role. Convinced that she has a wonderful voice, Marguerite Dumont enjoys singing at house parties in 1921 France, regaling anyone and everyone of how she’s always dreamed to be a singer and how one day, she’ll play at a concert hall to resounding applause. But as soon as she opens her mouth to sing, nothing but a howl and off-key singing leaves it. There’s always applause after, flowers sent to the house in the dozens, praise and endless encouragement follow her everywhere.
But why has no one ever told her the truth? Well, part of that is because her beloved butler, Madelbos (Denis Mpunga) doesn’t allow it, silencing anyone who wishes to say anything negative about Marguerite with a stern look. Madelbos takes costumed pictures of Marguerite, further feeding her vision of stardom in many ways. Marguerite’s ashamed husband, Georges (André Marcon) avoids attending events and pretends he had car trouble to get out of hearing her sing. It doesn’t help that he’s having a secret affair. With the help of her friend Lucien (Sylvain Dieuaide), she hires a vocal coach and former opera singer, Atos Pezzini (Michel Fau), to help her prepare for her big recital where she’ll finally showcase her “talents” to a the larger public.
Marguerite is so very passionate about music and thus convincing herself that she is just as talented as the opera sopranos she listens to. It isn’t so much a delusion as it is a lifeline she clings to to help her live her life. Marguerite’s first question is always where her husband is. She wants to sing publicly and so gloriously, in part, to make him proud of her. Singing is the only thing she’s ever had, and as every character gets lost in her delusion, while fully being anchored in reality, it’s easy to see Marguerite’s passion and attachment to something that is hers and yet unattainable.
“Marguerite” is visually as classy as they come. Between the sets, the costumes, and the cinematography, it’s certainly appeasing to the eye. It also further accentuates the rich, yet lonely life Marguerite leads. Director and writer Xavier Giannoli’s filmmaking is of high quality and the film evokes a certain grandness about it. However, the film does start to fall apart a bit in the end.
At a run time of a little over two hours, “Marguerite” is prolonged and the finale has a lot of exposition that was showcased more deftly earlier in the film. We don’t need to have Marguerite’s issues explained to us. Giannoli already spends most of the film doing so. Regardless, Catherine Frot’s performance as the titular title character is notable and layered, and the film provides a wonderful supporting cast. “Marguerite” represents a problem that many have about singing talents: Natural talent can’t be claimed just because you want it badly enough or try really, really hard. And it’s this delusion that sadly takes over Marguerite’s entire life.
At a run time of a little over two hours, "Marguerite" is prolonged and the finale has a lot of exposition that was showcased more deftly earlier in the film. Regardless, Catherine Frot's performance as the titular title character is notable and layered, and the film provides a wonderful supporting cast.