Loosely inspired by the life of Florence Foster Jenkins (who coincidently and rather confusingly is also the subject of an upcoming biographical film starring Hugh Grant and Meryl Streep), Marguerite is a light-hearted drama set in the ‘golden twenties’, about an aspiring opera singer who believes she has a beautiful voice that everyone loves to listen to.
Believes is the key word there, as the truth – which no one has the heart to tell Marguerite – is that her singing voice is, in fact, horrible. The singer’s appeal, the thing that brings her the success she attributes to her vocal talents, lies in her likeable personality and refreshingly naive attitude. Her audiences find entertainment in the fact that she clearly believes wholeheartedly in how good she is, both on stage and in offering advice to inexperienced singers as if she’s an expert, and the film plays up this aspect for comedic value throughout.
This is a movie primarily for those who don’t take life too seriously and can find humour in this kind of self-deprecating entertainment. Also for those who either love opera – though the plot focuses on someone who doesn’t perform it well herself, the soundtrack is otherwise full of vintage classical music – or the period in which the film is set. If any of that sounds appealing to you, you’ll have a great time with Marguerite.
Even for myself, someone for whom 1920s opera wouldn’t necessarily represent a good time on paper, this movie was strangely comforting. There’s something undeniably likeable about these characters… Marguerite’s close friends and family care deeply for her; even her husband, who shows disdain for his wife’s lack of talent and is also having an affair on the side. Marguerite herself, for all her blind naivety when it comes to her singing, shows alarming insight at other times that helps make her increasingly endearing as the film goes on.
Though it ends on a slightly bizarre note (pun intended I guess), Marguerite is on the whole an eccentric and curiously beautiful character study of a woman whose blind confidence overrides lack of talent. The music’s great, period detail immaculate, and there won’t be much else quite like it in cinemas this year.
8 / 10