This weekend opens FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, aka Meryl Streep’s obligatory Oscar performance. While the actor continues to prove while she is the queen, she does so with a movie that sings mildly better than the character that she plays. The film is based on the true story of music lover Florence Foster Jenkins, who in 1944 performed at Carnegie Hall, outselling Frank Sinatra’s appearance just a week earlier.
Hugh Grant plays her husband, St. Clair, a man who always wanted to be an actor but never had the skill set. While Streep’s Florence steals the show, the movie is ultimately about St. Clair. His love for his wife appears to transcend any obstacle, both physical and emotional. They have an interesting set of rules to their relationship, formed out of circumstances beyond their control, but ultimately St. Clair’s life is all about keeping Florence happy. This includes surrounding her with talented people so that she can become a singer worthy of Carnegie Hall, like the pianist Cosme McMoon (played by The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg) who struggles to support Florence’s dreams as it may cost him his own reputation.
Cosme and St. Clair bond over hiding the truth from Florence: that she’s a terrible singer. It’s an odd thing that they have to hide. Florence attends performances regularly and is well known as a patron of singers and conductors, so how did she manage to not be able to hear herself at all? There’s also a humorous moment where a pianist is much too loud and “passionate” in his playing to the point where it upsets her, but she never notices her own volume. This is the ultimate issue I have with the film. As fun as it is to live in the world of yesterday and potentially fall in love with a woman who had a rough past and only wants to support the troops, she’s ultimately fairly manipulative. Whether she realizes it or not, the people around her go to extreme and expensive lengths to pander to her secretly. Was it really worth it?
In reality, Jenkins’ Carnegie Hall appearance is the most requested recording from the legendary hall. Her eccentric behavior and love for music have taken on mythical status, which makes it near impossible thing to correctly depict on screen. Jenkins was also rich. Not her entire life, but most of it. She never would’ve been treated this way without also having money, not just because they wouldn’t be able to pay for all the bribing, but because people just don’t put up with poor eccentric people (see: anything about Donald Trump for an example).
There are plenty of movies that are meant for the “baby boomer” generation, and even though I fall squarely into the millennial demographic, I typically enjoy them. I like the heart that pushes their characters like in movies such as Elsa Y Fred, Calendar Girls, and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. You can see the heart in this film that they want to be there, but Florence can occasionally reach such delusional levels that she risks hurting the future of others like McMoon and St. Clair, and it was personally hard to watch and kept me from connecting with the film as much as the ones already mentioned. I love the story of the real-life Florence Foster Jenkins, and there will definitely be many people who enjoy this feel-good flick. If you’ve seen the trailers and they appeal to you, you’ll likely enjoy this light-hearted film.
Running time: 110 minutes
Emily is a writer and television/film obsessor. If desired, Emily will talk to you at potentially-annoying-length about topics such as why the CW is her favorite channel, the current amazing state of underground comedy, and how she avoids TV/films about zombies because most of them do not chew with their mouths closed.
Emily J | Staff Writer