Movies: “Florence Foster Jenkins”

August 14, 2016

Florence - 1

When my son, Christian, told me last July that Meryl Streep would play Florence Foster Jenkins in a movie, my first hope was that the filmmakers would not ridicule Mrs. Jenkins, who would be an easy mark.

I first learned about Florence Foster Jenkins when I reviewed a regional production of Steven Temperley’s play, Souvenir, which recounts the unorthodox singer’s career.

Mrs. Jenkins, who had had several disappointments in her life, inherited a fortune and used her wealth to break into New York society as a significant patron of the arts. She thought of herself as a talented classical singer—whereas in reality she had no sense of tone or pitch—and gave private recitals to controlled audiences that would not tell her the truth. Her ambition exceeded her grasp, however, when she decided to give a public performance at Carnegie Hall.

Some dismiss Mrs. Jenkins as a fool, but others see in her a certain heroism, and her belief in herself may rise to that level when it is viewed in the whole context of her life, including her seriously compromised health.

Anyway, Pat and I saw the Meryl Streep film and found that there was no need to worry. While the filmmakers depart from the facts in that compulsive way that they have, the movie is a fair representation of the woman’s life and, most important, it treats her kindly.

My earlier blog about Florence Foster Jenkins is at THIS LINK.




7 Responses to “Movies: “Florence Foster Jenkins””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    If it hadn’t been for your previous post, I wouldn’t have known who Florence Foster Jenkins was. I’m glad to know the film’s in distribution now, although I’m a little irritated that it’s showing only at three theatres here, and at 10:15 or 10:30 at night. I can stay up that late, but I’m not so fond of roaming the roads at midnight these days. Maybe I’ll wait for the DVD.

    • charlespaolino Says:

      That’s too bad. It’s being treated as a mainstream film here. We didn’t have to go to the funky little place we usually rely on for good movies. I don’t understand how film distribution works. A friend of mine and his partner produced a film called “Dominick and Eugene” which starred Ray Liotta, Tom Hulce, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It got very good reviews and made a lot of money as a rental, but it was shown in only a handful of theaters. Marvin arranged for us to see a preview, but it played in only one theater in Manhattan and a couple in Florida and one on the West Coast.

      • shoreacres Says:

        Here’s a grin for you. A friend who lives in Lubbock, Texas, already has seen it in the theater there — at 7:20 in the evening. Lubbock. Who knew?

      • charlespaolino Says:

        Thank heaven for Lubbock! (I replied twice because I thought the first one didn’t take.)

    • charlespaolino Says:

      I don’t understand film distribution. A friend of ours and his partner produced a movie called “Dominick and Eugene” which starred Ray Liotta, Tom Hulce, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It made a lot of money as a rental and got good reviews, but it was shown in only a handful theaters in the country.

  2. shoreacres Says:

    I saw the film yesterday afternoon, and thought it was marvelous. You’re right: she would have been an easy mark for filmmakers, but the audience watching the film seemed to go through the same transformation as the audience at Cargnegie. The whole theater was filled with laughter at the beginning, but by the end, everyone seemed captivated enough to not want to leave. I’ve never seen so many people sitting through credits.

    I especially enjoyed Simon Helberg as Cosmé McMoon.

    One of the reviews called the film a paean to mediocrity, but I’m not sure I’d go along with that. I’m not yet sure what I would call it, but I surely did enjoy it.

  3. We saw it last night and I agree that they seem to have resisted the urge to make her a complete figure of fun. In fact my companion said that in real life she was aware of negative reviews and had a healthy enough ego to write them off as hacks.

    I’m curious to know what liberties the film writers took with the truth… I was actually angry after Saving Mr. Banks because of how Disney portrayed itself as winning P.L. Travers over to their interpretation of her work, when I read elsewhere that she hated it to the end. If you want to write fiction, write fiction. Don’t rewrite actual history to make yourself look better.

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