Streep, Grant Make Sweet Music In The Summer's Best Biopic

Streep, Grant Make Sweet Music In The Summer's Best Biopic

Film Review: Meryl Streep's "Florence Foster Jenkins"
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There seems to be little middle ground for period piece biopics. Some -- the uplifting stories with which audiences are already familiar -- garner critical praise and impressive box office returns while fascinating footnotes of history -- those largely unknown or ignored "stranger than fiction" tales -- are typically received with lukewarm reluctance. One of the most glaring examples in relatively recent memory is the 2000 Jacqueline Susann biopic, "Isn't She Great?" an amazing story rendered impotent by the heavy-handed hamming of Bette Midler and Nathan Lane.

I use this particular example because Meryl Streep's latest film, "Florence Foster Jenkins," while sharing a suspiciously similar plot with the former, is directly parallel to the box office bomb on the cinematic bell curve. Two stories, both of powerful of spirit if not totally talentless women with unending support from their respective husbands, and yet while Midler's movie failed, Meryl's latest venture is but another rousing addition to the pantheon of her stellar career.

The film tells the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, an heiress and aspiring singer who, despite an overwhelming lack of talent, actively pursued a singing career over the course of decades in the early 20th century. Though plagued by hecklers, critics and detractors throughout her career, Jenkins -- who famously quipped that "people may say I couldn't sing, but no one can say I didn't sing" -- managed to sell out Carnegie Hall a scant month before her death at age 76.


The real-life grande dame of delusion.

Due, no doubt, to the fact that this is a wholly British production (BBC produced it and Hugh Grant plays the male lead, how much more British could you get?), the ludicrous topic is handled with a remarkable amount of restraint. Though wholly immersed in a cloud of self-delusion, her own creation, abetted by many, rarely does Streep's portrayal of Jenkins come across as pitiable; rather, the formidable "Madame Florence" commands a respect from audiences both onscreen and off.

What is perhaps most astounding is the fact that this film -- through stirring performances by Streep, Grant and Simon Helberg of TV's "The Big Bang Theory," as well as Danny Cohen's expert cinematography -- manages to wring such poignancy and inspiration from what is, on paper, a one-note joke. Even the scenes depicting Jenkins' "performances," -- comedic low-hanging fruit which could have easily been weighted by cliché -- are portrayed with what borders on reverence. If the real life chanteuse managed to convince herself that she was of rare talent, Streep's depiction achieves this on a wider scale.


"Florence" avoids the mistake made by Midler's 2000 turn as the legendary author Susann and, rather than making a feeble attempt to integrate the spouse into the plot, more or less centers the plot around St. Clair Bayfield, Jenkins' common-law husband with whom she shares a mildly unusual living arrangement (he lives with his girlfriend, Flo foots the bill).

Grant's Britannic upbringing serves him well as the stoic anchor to Streep's extravagant and eccentric character as well as a wider series of oddballs who lend both a tenderness and frivolity to an already outstanding production. Grant's portrayal of Bayfield, a 20th century Sisyphus forever shielding his beloved from scathing reviews, is done so with commendable poise, especially considering his burden of playing the "straight man" to several characters who, while outrageous, never cross over into that dreaded territory of cheap stereotypes.

With a superb cast, quality camera work and a unique story, the movie more than makes up for its only flaw; haphazard exposition. It is a period piece of substance and a film of which the soon-to-be legendary Ms. Jenkins would approve of wholeheartedly, one which will undoubtedly earn La Streep her 20th Oscar nomination.

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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5 Songs to Add to Your Playlist This Month

Spring into finals week (and the summer) by "cleaning up" your playlist

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Here are some fun, fresh new tracks to check out as you finish out the rest of the school year and help you get out of your "music comfort zone!"

“Patience” by Tame Impala 

Genre: Electronic/Alternative

Tame Impala FINALLY released new music (!!), and this track is absolutely stunning. With frontrunner Kevin Parker staying on brand with the band's psychedelic, seemingly ethereal style, it sounds like a combination of 70s soft rock and waves of modern-day electronica, with Parker's voice drifting in and out in a kind of otherworldly, mellowed-out manner.

“Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend 

Genre: Alternative/Indie Pop

Vampire Weekend is also releasing an album, entitled "Father of the Bride", on May 3rd. From the looks of it, this track relates to the theme of marriage/weddings present in the album's title, and it is a fun, upbeat song that I have been listening to a lot in the morning as I'm getting ready for class! Ezra Koenig's voice is so unique and can cover a broad range, and I highly recommend listening to some of the band's other work as well ("Step" from their 2013 release "Modern Vampires of the City" is one of my all-time favorite songs!).

“Ready to Let Go” by Cage the Elephant 

Genre: Alternative/Alternative Rock

So many great artists are (finally) releasing new albums this year, and Cage the Elephant falls into this category. This track is an absolute banger and doesn't stray much from the band's style in that it includes a lot of loud guitar and dynamic vocals. Like Vampire Weekend, Cage the Elephant has been around since the early 2000s, and I highly recommend checking out some of their earlier work as well (big fan of their most recent album, actually!)

“Apple Orchard” by Beach House 

Genre: Indie/Electronic

Beach House is one of my favorite bands of all time, as I find a kind of an ethereal, beautiful sadness in the dreamy style of instrumentalist Alex Scally and lucid vocals of singer Victoria Legrand. This track is from their 2006 self-titled debut and is probably one of my favorite songs they've ever released. The lyrics are poetic and perfect for the post-finals enjoyment of spring weather, in that they preach relaxation and restfulness, and the song's electronic rhythms echo the essence of spring as well. If you like this song, then I highly recommend checking out the band's other albums as well (Depression Cherry is one of my favorite albums of all time).

“April Come She Will” by Simon & Garfunkel 

Genre: 60s Pop

No spring playlist is complete without a little Simon & Garfunkel! This song is a classic, its timeless, poetic lyrics capturing the epitome of the coming of spring and all its glory. In fact, I consider the entire album (entitled Sound of Silence) to be perfect for the pleasantness and feelings of renewal/natural revitalization associated with the coming months, so be sure to give it a listen if you haven't heard it before!

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