Florence Foster Jenkins Review

Florence_Foster_Jenkins_(film)It’s easy to see the trailer for Florence Foster Jenkins and think you have it all figured it out. It looks like the singing version of Eddie the Eagle. The person with no talent that somehow makes it to the highest stage in their dream career. Eddie it is ski jumping. Florence it is singing. However, as much as I loved Eddie the Eagle I think the comparison is selling Florence Foster Jenkins a little bit short.  There are some odd but intriguing elements to FFJ that really impressed me. It’s a special film I am honestly still processing.

nullFlorence Foster Jenkins stars Meryl Streep as the title character, a real life socialite who dreams of becoming an opera singer who performs at Carnegie Hall.  The subversive element is she is rich and so is constantly surrounded by yes men who patronize her and tell her how great she is at singing.  They even buy off critics and an entire audience to cheer for her singing.

The strange thing about this element is the movie is unclear whether these people are doing something kind or cruel. Plus, I was never quite sure how in on the scheme Florence is. She is a trained pianist but her health doesn’t allow her to play. Surely she must know she isn’t a good singer? Sometimes it seems like she does and other times it doesnt. I found that intriguing.

florence foster jenkinsHer husband played by Hugh Grant is another unusual character for this type of movie. They have chemistry and you can tell they love each other. And yet they also have an agreement with his dalliances from the marriage with Rebeca Ferguson.  At times he could be quite lovely and then others I kind of hated him. It’s very unusual for this type of movie. Is he doing a nice thing by enabling others or should he be honest with his wife?

florence foster jenkins3There’s also an interesting element with the recordings of her terrible singing being requested by soldiers on the radio. Why? What is it about her voice that people at that era want to hear? I find that fascinating and I like that the movie doesn’t give you the answer. It just left me wondering.

florence-foster-jenkins-poster-slice-600x200Simon Helberg is lovely as her pianist who is embarrassed to be playing Carnegie Hall and other venues for someone like Florence. In some ways he stands in for the viewer- both cheering Florence on and being horrified by the charade going on.

There is an uncomfortable element of class the movie doesn’t really dwell on. Florence was famous for a mantra “some may say that I couldn’t sing but no one can say that I didn’t sing”.  That is commendable but the only reason she sang in Carnegie Hall at least was because of her money- a poor person would have to be content badly singing in front of their friends. So in a weird way a message of the movie is ‘you can achieve the impossible if you are rich”.

But on the other hand this untidy messaging makes the film more intriguing. It’s one more example of a slightly subversive element to what should be a cut and dry inspirational story.

Get ready for your Oscar ballots because Meryl Streep will be nominated for this. She is completely lovely in the part. Without question the best female performance I have seen this year so far. All the rest of the performances are good and the production design, costumes, hair and makeup are all first rate.

florence-foster-jenkins1Like I said in the beginning, it might be easy to discount this film as a cheesy inspirational story but I encourage you to give it a chance.  There’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. The characters really made me think about their motives and the morality of their choices.

Overall Grade- A

Eddie the Eagle Review

So this week has been a bit of a rough one for me. I got a horrible stomach flu, pulled a muscle in my back and had a 3 day brutal migraine.

Needless to say I needed a pick-me up, and thankfully Eddie the Eagle was just such a film! It fits all the standard tropes of an underdog sports movie but as someone who loves those kind of movies I loved it!!

Eddie the Eagle tells the true story of Eddie Edwards who in 1988 charmed the Olympics by finishing last at the ski jump.  How’s that possible, you ask?  Well, it’s because the Olympics is not always about who gets those medals but who ‘takes part’ and does their best.

The real Eddie the Eagle
The real Eddie the Eagle

As a child Eddie had to be in the hospital for a year because of his bad legs, and he used the dream of becoming an Olympian to motivate him to recover. Unfortunately he didn’t have the physical prowess or natural abilities of most Olympians but he eventually found skiing and almost made the British downhill team.

When that didn’t work out he decided to learn how to ski jump.  There was no British team and he could qualify with a modest jump.  He basically teaches himself until he meets Bronson Perry (Hugh Jackman) who is an American jumper who never reached his full potential.  Through sheer determination Eddie convinces Bronson to be his coach and he makes his way to the Olympics.

eddie the eagle3Amazingly enough he completes his jump in the 70 meters and then in the 90 meters- a jump he had never attempted until that day in the Olympics!  Isn’t that nuts!  He did a major ski jump for the first time in the Olympics!

Jackman and Taron Egerton, who plays Eddie, have great chemistry and they sell the admittedly schmaltzy dialogue.  Director Dexter Fletcher keeps things pretty tightly paced and the film has a lot of sweetness and humor.

Is it new or original? Of course it’s not.  It’s basically the same movie we’ve seen in Rudy, Cool Runnings, and even Miracle.  As I love all 3 of those movies that is no problem for me!  It doesn’t transcend the genre like the boxing film Warrior or even Creed did but I didn’t need it to.  I just wanted something that would make me smile and feel good, and that’s what Eddie the Eagle did.

It doesn’t hurt that I am a huge Olympics junkie and have watched every year since I was a little girl as well!  The Olympics are just awesome.  It’s so random we’ve had 2 Olympics movies in 2 weeks.  That’s actually really rare.  For all their drama there aren’t that many films set in the Olympics- Miracle, Chariots of Fire, Cool Runnings, Cutting Edge.  Not that many.  I do think Eddie the Eagle is tighter and better done than Race; although I enjoyed both films.

I would say I don’t think it is quite as good as last year’s McFarland USA, which to me took this formula and told a compelling story about lower income America.  That movie was more emotional for me; whereas, this was just a good time at the movies.

eddie the eagle4If it’s not your cup of tea I totally get it but sometimes I like going to the movies and being inspired by a sports movie.  The performances are winning.  The ski jumping is well portrayed and I found myself cheering for Eddie and his dogged optimism.

And after the week I had I needed that…

Overall Grade- A-