21 August 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful film. Starring Meryl Streep as the eponymous Florence, Hugh Grant as her long-time companion, St. Clair Bayfield, and Simon Helberg as the improbably-named Cosmé McMoon, Florence's piano accompanist, FFJ is a story of love made manifest in deliberate disregard of reality. Florence dreamed of herself as an operatic soprano but she couldn't sing. Bayfield knew she couldn't sing but did all in his power to permit her to live in her world of dream.

With Florence's generous contributions to the arts and a large circle of gracious friends, all went well until Florence decided to give a public concert at Carnegie Hall. There she was forced to face the scorn of an audience and critics; there she was compelled to feel the shame of public humiliation; and not long thereafter Florence died. And, to top it off, generally true to the real-life Florence (here).

Meryl Streep, who has a fine voice, does a superb job of reproducing Florence's terrible singing expression. Hugh Grant does an excellent role of playing a man committed to a woman who cannot requite his love because of syphilis contracted from her first husband. Helberg as McMoon steps up his performance several notches from his role as Howard Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory.

FFJ was a peculiar story of of love and self-deception. And even though it may not be a great film, FFJ warmed our hearts. After all, who knows (or really wants to know) the deceptions we practice on ourselves and enabling love that permits us to endure the harsh reality of an unloving world?

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