Thursday, August 18, 2016

Movie Review - "Florence Foster Jenkins"

From the time I saw the first commercial for "Florence Foster Jenkins", and looked at a trailer for it online, I knew that this was going to be a movie I wanted to see.  It looked like it would be funny, and it starred Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, and it even included Simon Helberg, the guy who plays Howard Walowitz on "The Big Bang Theory".  It was directed by Stephen Frears, the guy who made "The Queen". I mean, how could you go wrong?

Then the reviews came in, and word of month from friends, and it confirmed everything.  Streep was great, everyone said, and will probably earn her twentieth Oscar nomination from this one, but the guy who steals the movie is Helberg, and he, too, will probably score an Oscar nomination as a result of his part in this one.  Like to see Sheldon Cooper top that!

The movie takes place in 1944 in New York City.  Streep plays the title character, a wealthy patron of the arts who loves music and has a desire to sing in public.  In Carnegie Hall, no less.  Grant is her devoted husband, and Helberg plays the pianist that Grant hires to accompany his wife as she takes to the stage.  I will say that the scene when Jenkins/Streep first sings with Helberg accompanying her in a rehearsal in Jenkins' apartment is positively hilarious.  If Helberg does score that Oscar nomination, it will be because of those few minutes of the movie.  

The movie is more than that, though. It's a love story that is incredibly touching, but one with a few complicated twists and turns to it.  The scenes of New York City in 1944 are really beautiful to look at, too.  As for pure film making, there is a scene in the latter part of the movie where Streep reads a newspaper on a New York City street where the camera backs up and away that is just a terrific scene.  And Streep's final line of dialog in the movie is really great.  It hits the perfect note (no pun intended).

This movie is also based on a true story.  There really was a Florence Foster Jenkins, who really did give a performance at Carnegie Hall in 1944.  You can look it up!

As I said, Streep is terrific, but that's no surprise.  Is she ever not great in a movie?  So is Helberg, but not mentioned much in the reviews is the work of Hugh Grant.  Personal prejudice:  I really like Hugh Grant.  He can be serious, he can be funny (he is both in this movie), and he is good looking.  I have always said that there was only one Cary Grant in the movies, and he will never be duplicated, but Hugh Grant comes the closest to it of any contemporary actor.  He gives a wonderful performance in "Florence Foster Jenkins", but it is one that will probably get lost amidst the work of Streep and Helberg.

Three and one-half stars from The Grandstander for "Florence Foster Jenkins".

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