Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins was a real woman, a patroness of the arts who supported almost all of New York’s musical endeavours and dedicated her life to her passion, singing. She was instructed by leading maestros and had orchestras and composers at her beck and call – her generous donations made sure of that.

Just one tiny hiccup: she couldn’t sing to save her life. Her singing was not unlike a dying florence-foster-jenkins-2016-meryl-streep.pngsquirrel’s trying to evacuate a burning building. Horrendous. But she had no flipping idea. Meryl Streep plays Florence with gusto. We all know Meryl can sing: she’s been in Mama Mia and Into The Woods. She’s got pipes. But in this movie she manages to unabashedly sound like someone took a hacksaw to those pipes and stuffed them full of gasoline-soaked rags. It’s stupendous. Her caterwauling never fails to get a laugh and it was amazing to me how long she could sustain that, how funny she could make the same joke, in slightly different, gutsy ways.

Hugh Grant plays Florence’s husband, St Clair, the man behind the “talent” who applauds her every croak and covers up the critics. Their love is tender but their relationship unique. It’s unusual to see a marriage so complex and interesting portrayed without judgement. Simon Helberg plays Mr. McMoon, the man engaged to be her accompanist. An able pianist, he struggles to attach his rising star to her pitiful performances, but it’s amazing how far money and connections will get you. Helberg, nearly unknown to me, creates a florence-foster-jenkins1memorable character of his own in the shadow of two much bigger leads, but he manages to earn his own laughs and distinguish himself.

Meryl Streep is an absolute star and she’ll be a big part of why you love this movie. She finds nuance in her tuneless moaning and clinches the laugh time and time again. I couldn’t help it, not that I must wanted to. And Hugh Grant is charming as ever, and dare I say, reaching beyond his usual repertoire to be worthy of The Streep. It works. They have a distinct, affectionate chemistry that you want to be a part of. Director Stephen Frears knows how to tell a sympathetic story without disempowering anyone.

I thought a lot about the American Idol contestants purposely selected for their awfulness so that we may bond in our mockery of them. Florence Foster Jenkins was a 1940s era William Hung. No one has ever had the courage or the temerity to tell her she’s bad, and so she persists, believing that she’s good. Maybe even great. But Streep pulls it off infectiously, plays delusional faith in herself with sweetness and not inconsiderable vulnerability.  And yet we anticipate her humiliation. Will she ever find out the truth? And who among us will be most devastated?

quote-some-may-say-that-i-couldn-t-sing-but-no-one-can-say-that-i-didn-t-sing-florence-foster-jenkins-78-98-56In truth, this film may not have a lot of staying power, unlike the lady herself who is remembered these 75 years later. She lived authentically, and those who loved her told the Good Lie. I was touched. Frears is careful to avoid cruelty, pushing the bounds of mockery and sincerity without ever overstepping, and so wins our respect. And frankly, so does Florence.

30 thoughts on “Florence Foster Jenkins

  1. Colane Conundrum

    Can’t wait to see this one. I had never heard of Florence Foster Jenkins until I heard this movie was being made. A lot of her recordings are available on iTunes. And … yeah. It’s worth it to listen to some of the song snippets. They’re indescribable.


  2. Birgit

    I wonder how many people who really could sing must have been pissed at this lady who, because of money, got that far. It sounds like a good film and a unique story and we finally see Grant in a role that might be more worthy of him than the typical romance comedies. Now if any star that states they got there just because of their talent and money and whom you know didn’t factor in then I shall just roll my eyes


  3. kmSalvatore

    i cant wait to see this. i laugh out loud every time the commercials come on for it, and i love Streep and well of course Hugh… im looking forward to this even more now. thanks Jay


  4. reocochran

    I have come to really treasure uniquely written scripts and subject matters, Jay.
    The acting skills of High Grant are dispelled in the movie “About a Boy” and “Music and Lyrics.”(His over aged boy band player was “spot on!”)
    In each Hugh Grant captures a quirky, sometimes unlikable person and then redeems the character by shining. Many movies he shuffles through, I agree, with his “impish” charm. I still love his Prime Minister role in “Love Actually.”
    I enjoyed “Ricki and the Flash” with Meryl Streep playing a less than good mother who tried to be a mother but put her career first. She rocked!


    1. Jay Post author

      I definitely love him in Love Actually.

      He recently expressed disappointment in not getting a BAFTA nomination for his role in About A Boy, which, as you point out, was a very good role for him.


  5. Wendell

    Kind of hesitant to see this one. It just feels like shameless Oscar bait. To be honest, I’m not even sold on how “remembered” Florence Foster Jenkins, the person, is. I had never heard of her at all until two weeks when everyone suddenly started talking about her.


  6. Pingback: 2016: Year of the Fabulous Ladies | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

  7. StephLove

    Do you know if the character in Citizen Kane, his wife who can’t sing but has an opera career due to his money was based on the same historical character? It’s different– in CK she knows the truth– but it made me wonder, especially with the name Foster being Kane’s middle name.


    1. Jay Post author

      I don’t know if it was intended, but you’re definitely not the first to notice the similarity so there might be something to it. The timing’s right.


  8. Pingback: Golden Globe Nominations | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

  9. Pingback: Oscar Nominations 2017 | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES


  11. Pingback: Oscar Spotlight: Costume Design | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s