Florence Foster Jenkins

I went to work.  I was glad to be done with my shift, and I returned home to eat a burrito and a salad.  I took a nap, and then went out to the bus stop to make my way to the Grand Lake Theatre.  I decided to see “Florence Foster Jenkins,” the story of a singer who couldn’t sing.  The only stars I recognized were Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg, who played the main characters.  The reference points for me were “Ishtar” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”  “Ishtar” had two aspiring songwriters who were lacking in talent, although they weren’t accomplished with their singing, either.  In “Little Miss Sunshine,” there was the performance at the end that stunned the audience.  What I thought about after seeing this movie was how families can encourage kids who have average talent in music or writing or acting or art with their praise.  I also thought about Bruce Springsteen telling his audiences back in 1978 that his parents were still trying to convince him to go to college.  Meryl Streep turns in a good performance, although bad singing is only funny for a short time.  I thought of the Partridge Family episode with the girl named Dora singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”  It seemed to me that Maggie Smith could have played this role at one time.  Hugh Grant reminded me of how many years have passed since “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”  I thought he was pretty good in his role.  Simon Helberg seemed not quite a perfect fit for his character, but he can actually play piano.  I think that many people have delusions about their talent, their intelligence, and their importance in the world.  You could say that just about everyone has a little bit of Florence Foster Jenkins inside.  Florence’s dream is to sing at Carnegie Hall.  The show made me think back to Andy Kaufman’s Christmas show in “Man on the Moon.”  Cole Porter and Tallulah Bankhead were two celebrities who came to see Florence.  You could see that she was the William Hung of her time.  The movie implies that a bad review led to death.  On the whole, I liked this movie, although it was something less than great.  I could see a cult following in the years to come.  Ultimately, people don’t want to watch people who don’t have talent.  America got tired of The Gong Show, for example.  I recall Stephen Frears from the 1980s, so I thought that perhaps I hadn’t seen any of his films for a while.  Checking his credits, though, I see that he worked on “High Fidelity,” “The Queen,” and “Philomena.”  I liked the odd characters in this movie.  One of them reminded me of John Waters.  Florence’s Carnegie Hall performance was on October 25, 1944.  She suffered a heart attack five days later and died on November 26, 1944 at age 76.  Cosmé McMoon developed pancreatic cancer and died on August 22, 1980 at age 79.  St. Clair Bayfield died on May 19, 1967 at age 91.  I left the lobby and waited for a bus.  A woman asked me how I liked the movie.  The 57 bus never arrived, so I had to take the 12 bus home.  Some of the people who died on August 16 include Robert Johnson (1938), Babe Ruth (1948), Margaret Mitchell (1949), Bela Lugosi (1956), Elvis Presley (1977), Amanda Blake (1989), Stewart Granger (1993), and William Windom (2012).  Today is a birthday for Steve Carell (54), Timothy Hutton (56), Angela Bassett (58), Madonna (58), and James Cameron (62).

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