Here’s something that I’ve discovered …
You can be the most super-talented singer, dancer, actor, visual artist or whatever in the world, but if you don’t have the drive, discipline, work ethic and ability to work with others, talent won’t take you very far.
So many creative people think they should succeed on the wave of their talent alone. You know … you get out there and sing your heart out on “The Voice” and the next thing you know, the corporate machine comes calling, signs you up and takes care of everything on your behalf behind the scenes.
If only life were that simple.
I’m still waiting for a TV reality show that reveals what happens during cutthroat contract negotiations or getting up at 4 am to rehearse or what happens when your drummer calls in sick two hours before the show or your manager quits in the middle of your tour or there’s a fire at your home in Malibu while you’re about to take the stage in Stockholm.
You know, what show business is REALLY like. But I digress.
What I loved most about “Florence Foster Jenkins” is that real-life woman’s determination to pursue her passion even though she clearly lacked talent. What Jenkins lacked in talent she made up for in determination, passion and of course, self-delusion despite her well-warranted insecurities.
She was a well-to-do, high society matron and arts patron of early New York who financed her singing ambitions to moderate success. Meryl Streep, who plays Jenkins, does her usual brilliant job of getting into the head and heart of a character and making us have great sympathy for them. And boy, let me warn you, those singing scenes are truly, comically horrid.
I must say that Hugh Grant almost steals this film. He gives such a warm and loving performance as Jenkins’ husband. Although this character doesn’t veer far from what we’re used to seeing Grant do on film, this time around, there’s much more heft to his performance which is certainly Oscar bait.
The same can be said for Streep obviously, but also of Simon Helberg who is pitch-perfect as Jenkins’ pianist. Helberg really does a great job of portraying the comedy and conflict that his character experiences. His performance has the qualities of a cartoon character, but Helberg manages to escape that and retain the character’s humanity.
Director Stephen Frears delivers a very intriguing biopic here that’s equal parts documentary, love story, morality tale and comedic drama … or is it dramatic comedy? Also, I absolutely love the statement that this film makes about the importance of music and art in our lives. Don’t miss it.
Ultimately though, for me, this film keeps tugging at the question of talent. It seems to me that burning passion and work ethic can carry even marginally talented people quite far ... if they strategize correctly.
I mean, seriously, while Florence Foster Jenkins was a truly bad singer, I can certainly think of some contemporary pop stars who best not laugh too hard when they see this film.