Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins - 9 stars out of 10

Florence Foster Jenkins - 9 stars out of 10

I had been anticipating “Florence Foster Jenkins” for nearly two years since it was first reported and it is everything that I hoped it would be!  There is nothing better than listening to Meryl Streep butcher opera's greatest hits for two hours.  But beneath the obvious comic value, there is a story that celebrates Jenkins’ spirit and passion for music, in spite of the sounds that she produces.  This film required a delicate balance in order to recreate the bad singing of Jenkins without making fun of her.  If anything, Meryl Streep's singing isn't bad enough!   It provides the perfect amount of comedy to earn “Madame Florence” a whimsical place in our hearts.   The cast of this film deserves a SAG, solely for keeping a straight face throughout Streep's singing.  The facial expressions of Simon Helberg during Florence's first vocal lesson are some of the greatest expressions that I have ever seen on screen.  And the laughter on the elevator will have everyone in the theater laughing out loud.  I have taught my middle school students about “the worst opera singer of all time” for many years but my perspective has completely changed now that I know the whole story.  Honestly, this film taught me a lot about judging others and the importance of empathizing with a person’s circumstances.  You could say that I used to be like the critics who delighted in writing scathing reviews about Jenkins' abominable performances, but now I feel more like the metaphorical character of Agnes Stark who cheers her on and celebrates the joy that music brought to her.  The script is well-written, the acting is fantastic, and the serious content is given a proper amount of attention within the context of the film’s lighthearted mood.  I appreciate the inclusion of Cole Porter (who was one of Jenkins' biggest fans) and loved the boldly crass acting of Nina Arianda (in the role of Stark).  The most stunning piece of the film is Streep as she captures every nuance of Jenkins' poor vocal technique.  From the unrefined register breaks to her painfully flat upper range, and she "perfectly" recreates every error contained in Jenkins' infamous recordings.  It is inevitable that “Florence Foster Jenkins” will appear on the Oscar ballot next year, but this film is more than just Oscar bait.  It is a testament to the power of music when one expresses it with passion , even if there is a disconnect between the music in their heart and the sound that emerges from their mouth.

[Pictured: Beneath the elaborate costumes and mountains of money, Florence was simply a woman who loved to sing.]

No comments:

Post a Comment