Very loosely inspired by the American amateur opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins—subject of an upcoming Stephen Frears biopic starring Meryl Streep—Marguerite is a marvel, a bravura dramedy that beautifully balances tragedy and comedy to the point where you can’t be sure which is which. In Paris, 1920, socialite and passionate music lover Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot) has been deceived by all around her in an emperor’s-new-clothes way about the stupendously off-key awfulness of her singing. As French filmmaker Xavier Giannoli delves past the amused ridicule and into the joy Marguerite gets from singing, we begin to wonder if her self-delusion isn’t actually healthy. The ’20s are just beginning to roar here, and as Marguerite finds herself enjoying, for the first time, a taste of bohemia, she nevertheless remains unaware of the burgeoning of irony in the culture around her (as embodied by an initially sarcastic music critic who is won over and becomes her friend). But the philosophical question is clear to us: Is it better to be wise, jaded and cynical about art, or blissfully undiscriminating about it?
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