If the too-strange-to-be-made-up film telling of Florence Foster Jenkins' life isn't quite as good as its pedigree, it's certainly not the fault of Meryl Streep.

If the too-strange-to-be-made-up film telling of Florence Foster Jenkins' life isn't quite as good as its pedigree, it's certainly not the fault of Meryl Streep.

The movie at large may be a little one-note (pun!) in its delivery and may not quite pull the emotional punch it wants to, but it wouldn't be half the movie it is without Streep.

The setting is New York City in 1944. The society side of life must go on, apparently, even as our boys are fighting off the last of the Japanese forces at the end of World War II.

Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep) is a wealthy heiress who is also a devout patron of the arts. She even owns her own club, where she appears in musical numbers hosted by her husband St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant).

But Florence's true dream is to be an operatic singer. She recruits a nebbish and talented pianist named Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg). He thinks he's been hired to accompany her voice lessons.

And she needs voice lessons.

You see, dear reader, Florence wants to be an operatic singer, but she has one of the most comically bad singing voices ever. And this comic effect is pretty much where the movie gets its laughs.

Give it up to director Stephen Frears for the sheer number of good laughs he gets from this one joke - and to Streep for selling it over and over. Still, given Frears' past work ("The Queen," "Philomena," "High Fidelity"), I expected a little more than just a warm, Sunday matinee crowd-pleaser. Not that there isn't a time and place for that.

But as this wild true story plays out, the emotional connections Frears tries to build are less successful, and the laughs generally stream from the same well, which he returns to with somewhat diminishing effect.

Of course, Streep is going to be the MVP of pretty much every movie she's in. She gives Florence a wide-eyed naiveté which, when combined with sycophants who only like her for her money, sets up a path that takes Florence all the way to Carnegie Hall.

Grant and Helberg get their own share of laughs, although if either could have held up to Streep, this would be a different movie. Can we also stop to appreciate that St Clair Bayfield and Cosme McMoon are real names, not the product of some fevered screenwriter?

"Florence Foster Jenkins"

Opens Thursday

2 ½ stars out of 4