Florence Foster Jenkins 2016
I’m probably among the many who take Meryl Streep for granted. We know how great she is but this is what we expect from her and she rarely or never disappoints us. No doubt she is headed for her 20th Oscar nomination in a few weeks for her deep and deeply moving performance as Florence Foster Jenkins which I watched the other night in pure delight and a big smile on my face. As many of us know the movie is a bio pic of the mind boggling Florence Foster Jenkins a rich society matron whose passion in life was for music and of singing someday at Carnegie Hall. There has also been a documentary on her unseen by me, and a French film “Marguerite” which is more fiction than fact also released this year and was seen by me. You might say that I’m in a Florence Forster Jenkins state of mind. Directed by the very good director Stephen Frears and set in 1944 New York City the movie is nicely designed and costumed not too thick and not to thin in it’s ambiance and slowly sets up this lady and us for the shocking experience of her voice. We of course along with several members of the cast crack up on first hearing this horrible singing, and yet I was also touched by her passion of awfulness. As I said this is based on the life of Jenkins who is wonderfully brought to life by Streep and is presented as a kind giving woman who is loved and protected by her second husband, her staff and her mostly hard of hearing rich fellow matrons of the arts. As the film opens Florence is searching for a pianist to accompy her in her private lessons given to her by her protective but deceiving singing coach. Almost immediately they find the right pianist a Coseme McMoon played to perfection and more so by Simon Helberg who should also get an Oscar nomination. The looks on his face when he first hears Florence sing is a master class in comic timing and acting and he is superb. There’s much more including a very fine Hugh Grant and a supporting cast of charm and delight. Nina Arianda in blonde wig plays a loud brassy dame married to a rich music lover who at first lambasts Jenkins by laughing so hard at her singing at a small intimate concert that she literally falls on the floor and has to be dragged out of the hall. Later she will become one of her saviors and this is one of the false notes in this otherwise entertaining film. A standout scene for me is the racuous outrageous party where Hugh does a wicked jitterbug with Nina Arianda to “Sing Sing Sing” that is one of the memorable moments in this very good movie year of 2016. Preston Sturges would have loved it.