Saturday, April 29, 2017

Florence Foster Jenkins

Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant,
Simon Helberg

"The inspiring True story
of the World worst Singer"

Meryl Streep's career has spanned decades and there is no doubt she loves her craft. She is also at a point where her age can limit her choices to a select few roles. But she is also fearlessly brave as an artist who knows her limitations yet still pushes past the boundaries while other actresses (in her same age group) might deem it a risky move for their movie careers.

For instance, Meryl Streep's singing voice is not what made her win acting awards yet she starred in musicals like the movie adaptation of "Mama Mia" and some film whose title escapes me right now, where she played the aging lead vocalist of some rock band.

In this regard, she shares this indomitable spirit with a really colorful character named Florence Foster Jenkins. A New York socialite/heiress in the mid 1940s who is known as the worst singer/soprano in the world yet persisted and was able to stage a concert to a full house (mind you!) at the Carnegie Hall. 

Florence was enthusiastically encouraged and supported by her partner St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) who lavishes her with high praises yet also shields her from any bad reviews by critics of her really horrible performances.

Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) was hired to accompany her on the piano. A young struggling musician who could not believe his luck when he was personally picked by Florence. Little did he know what he was getting himself into ... his look of disbelief when he first hears her sing during their initial practice session is totally priceless!

This is a poignant story of a woman who was either delusional or simply didn't care whether her voice was irritating and her singing was totally terrible. She simply wanted to sing and sing she did with everything she got, usually clad in luxurious jewelry, a bejeweled headpiece (at her final concert she even donned huge angel wings) and extravagantly lavish gowns which she designed herself. 

Mixed emotions prevail as you don't know whether to feel sad for her, rejoice for her, or cringe (covering your ears) once she starts vocalizing with gusto. I believe her partner St. Clair was truly instrumental in making sure she was 'successful'. This makes you question whether he did it out of pity (she was already ailing with a long term disease), out of love (he only wanted her to be happy) or for monetary reasons (her concerts were mostly sold out events). 

This charming film truly doesn't explain that and neither does it intend to mock Ms. Jenkins It celebrates her life, her performances, her passion and her invincible spirit. It flourishes immensely due to the larger than life portrayal by *the* Meryl Streep. I believe that Florence Foster Jenkins deserves to be immortalized on film and recognized for her significant efforts in promoting music and the arts ... never mind she was out of tune in doing so.

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