Hot Take: Just because the movie is based on a true story about a singer who can’t actually sing doesn’t mean the story has to be tone deaf.
One thought kept coming to mind while watching Florence Foster Jenkins: “How far away is William Hung: The Movie?” It’s a scary thought but how much of a stretch is it to see Hung’s story turned into a cinematic Hollywood tale after viewing Florence Foster Jenkins? Honestly, not much of one.
For all the praise being heaped on FFJ and its star Meryl Streep, there were a number of issues ever present in the film. For one, Jenkins, the flamboyant American socialite at the center of this tale, was portrayed as an unwilling accomplice and unwitting dope in her assault on the ears of early 20th century America. The movie would have you believe that she somehow was able to be duped into believing the audiences thought she was an amazing singer. This seems like total bullshit, to be blunt, which is probably the best way to describe the movie.
Beyond her inability to recognize the audiences affinity for laughing at her (not with her which was probably more the case in actuality), FFJ also had an unfaithful, gold digging husband (portrayed by Hugh Grant) who orchestrated the grand deception. The movie portrays St. Clair Bayfield as almost a hero in his efforts to “help” Jenkins through her illness by allowing her to be fooled into thinking of herself as talented enough to perform at Carnegie Hall. In addition, Bayfield’s adulterous ways were looked at more of a matter of fact and almost righteous. If you marry a woman with an STD for her money, it’s your right to have a little action on the side to the point where you have separate living quarters from your benefactor/wife, apparently.
While most of the reviews laud Streep’s performance and declare the movie a hoot, my take couldn’t be further from that. Streep’s talents are wasted here and the movie itself is morally reprehensible and, worse yet, humorless. The story, as it unfolds, means very little as the credits lambaste anyone who might think of Florence Foster Jenkins as a novelty act. She sold a lot of records, after all. You know who else sold a lot of records? Those barking Christmas dogs. Let’s hope they don’t get a movie anytime soon.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Period On Pitch
The time period of the film is captured exquisitely. Director Stephen Frears’ familiarity with period pieces shines through despite the film’s shortcomings as entertainment.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Why Make FFJ Look So Dumb?
Was Jenkins in on the joke? Apparently, the movie version was just the butt of the joke who was an unwitting participant and mere victim of her passion for music. Furthermore, she was a success which the film would have you believe validates the sideshow antics. Highly successful, Jenkins had to be smarter than portrayed as giving all of the credit to her money grubbing husband is yet another put down.
- What’s So Touching?
Some have described the cinematic tale of Florence Foster Jenkins as “touching.” Seriously? What’s so touching about a woman being mocked, lied to and used for her wealth? I’ll wait.
- Where’s the Humor?
What exactly is so funny about bad singing?