One of the most under appreciated tricks of an actor’s trade is giving a deliberately bad performance within an actually great performance. Usually this comes about when an actor is playing a character that is also an actor, albeit a bad one. It’s easy to go over the top with it, for a director to ask an actor to just ham everything up in-character, and you can mostly get away with that. But there’s a big difference between an actor faking a performance they know is bad, and an actor giving a performance their character has absolutely no idea is bad.
The latter kind of performance is what Meryl Streep seems to so effortlessly create in Florence Foster Jenkins, an inspiring, charming movie where she plays a woman who chases a career as an opera singer despite her terrible lack of natural singing talent.
Now you may think that most of Streep’s ear-piercing singing was recorded after-the-fact, as is the case with most movies that are so heavy on music. Director Stephen Frears (The Queen) didn’t want to fake it after-the-fact, though. So instead they used a creative combo that actually silenced the musical instruments on set, but still recorded the live performance so it could be heard in the movie. You can watch how they did it in the clip below, and easily see how the strange setup was yet another tool Streep could use to help deliver her beautifully bad singing.
Florence Foster Jenkins is out now on DigitalHD and available through FandangoNOW.