Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Florence Foster Jenkins

Obviously, someone who has reviewed so many terrible movies is going to have a soft spot for outsider music.

Wait a second, is that obvious? Do the two go hand in hand? Now I'm unsure.

Nevertheless, it's true. I love the music some might say is unlistenable, and I love it with the same gusto that I love terrible films. Someone driven by an unknown force is compelled to create art, regardless of any training, regardless of the proper tools, and regardless of the quality of the finished product. What's not to love about that?

Frank Zappa once said The Shaggs were 'better than the Beatles, even today', and are you going to argue with him?

I once saw Jandek perform live. In fact, I'm wearing a Jandek shirt right now.
(photo not available)

On to the film. Socialite and patron of the arts Florence Foster Jenkins precariously swings down from the alcoves of a theatre, portraying the Angel Of Inspiration. Later, she averts a potato salad crisis at one of her functions. Overly fond of sandwiches, abhorring pointed objects, and collecting chairs in which notable people have reportedly died in, (For heaven's sake, don't try to sit in one), Madam Foster Jenkins is a complex, noble, and pitiable creature, one who is courageous, sympathetic, and profoundly untalented. Serving her famous potato salad from her bathtub and carrying around a mysterious briefcase, she is encouraged and protected, usually for continued patronage, as she ascends to infamy at a sold out show at Carnegie Hall.

Bittersweet and funny, the film Florence Foster Jenkins examines the life of the tone-deaf opera singer. Sadness lurks about, with hints of war, death, illness, and fear, but these specters don't hang around long. Knowing looks and glances abound, as the supporting characters desperately try to insulate Jenkins from a world that doesn't understand her genius at interpretation.

Florence Foster Jenkins is at turns both broadly and slyly comedic. Meryl Streep nearly submerges completely in her role. Oscar occasionally glints from behind her performance, which is understandable. Meryl seems to relish the part, and Hugh Grant cuts a mean jitterbug. I was particularly moved by a standout scene near the end of the film as Streep drags one of the New York Posts from the garbage placed there by her doting quasi-husband Grant, as the orchestration swells, the crane pivots, and Streep staggers slightly as she reads the review of her performance.

ICYMI, I said some stuff about the horror film The Disappointments Room at Cultured Vultures. You should check it out.

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