Thursday, September 8, 2016

Movie with Abe: Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins
Directed by Stephen Frears
Released August 12, 2016

It would be hard for anyone to deny that Meryl Streep is a great actress. She won two Oscars before she turned thirty-five and earned a third in 2011, picking up a grand unmatched total of nineteen nominations along the way. She proved her abilities early on with roles in “The Deer Hunter” and “Kramer vs. Kramer” and has since continued fine dramatic and comedic work, taking some time to branch out to less serious projects like “It’s Complicated” and “Mamma Mia” as well. She’s therefore a natural fit to portray Florence Foster Jenkins, a noted New York socialite with a tireless desire to sing for a crowd despite being truly terrible at it.

The introduction of Florence as portrayed by Streep is notable for the fact that it does not feature her singing, but rather performing with dramatic costumes in a show put on her by husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), who describes himself as an actor and monologist. St. Clair dotes on Florence and makes sure that she has everything that she needs, tucking her in for bed at night before leaving for the apartment in which he sleeps with another woman. When Florence hires a pianist (Simon Helberg) to work with her as she prepares for her first big show in a while, it becomes painfully clear that what the woman possesses in flair and commitment to the craft she utterly lacks in vocal talent.

This is not the most demanding role Streep has ever taken on, but to so gallantly miss every note and be gleeful while doing it takes a considerable amount of skill, however strange it may be. It’s a bit jarring to see Hugh Grant, once a romantic comedy leading man who has been only intermittently seen in the past decade or so, as Streep’s onscreen husband, but he does well in the role, committing fully to it and making him a believable and extremely conflicted person. Helberg, known for his supporting role on “The Big Bang Theory,” is more than a bit overeager in his portrayal of pianist Cosmé McMoon, demonstrating a lack of definitive tone for the film in general. That’s largely due to the perplexing nature of Florence as a person, seemingly unaware of the fact that people were applauding her as a different type of entertainment than she thought. The costumes, set pieces, and story do their best to make up for that uncertainty, making this an engaging and decent experience.


No comments: