Monday, September 12, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

Steven Frears' Florence Foster Jenkins is a one line joke: a would be soprano can’t sing. It’s also extremely perverse, as it frames artistic aspiration in the context of a massive delusion. The film’s title character played by Meryl Streep is abated in her grandiose fantasies, not only by the fact that she’s an heiress, but also because she’s suffering from syphilis--which in its later stages can affect the brain. The real character upon which the film was based culminated her career in a performance at Carnegie Hall that made her the laughing stock. In one of the only truly complex dramatic moments of the movie the ridicule of some members of her audience turns into a compassion mixed with grudging admiration for her feat: which is to persevere in spite of everything (something that must have appealed to to the wartime audience for which she performed). Whether this was what exactly transpired is another question. But what’s so endearing about that? Frears' character is a little like the bearded lady in the circus. Nevertheless the film is unsettling. Many creative people suffer the kind of insecurities that make them feel like “as if” personalities and it’s easy to emerge from Florence Foster Jenkins questioning whether years spent in the pursuit of a craft are vainglorious. Does Frears mean Jenkins to be the prototype for the individual of meager talent with a personality disorder or does the impact of the film result from the fact that it ignites one of those dreams of being caught with one's pants down? Frears has hit upon a sore spot, the Achilles heel which can make some talented individuals fear they will be revealed to be imposters? 

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