Archives

Florence Foster Jenkins

Published by:

Poster for the movie ""
Not rated yet!

Florence Foster Jenkins

20161 h 50 min
Overview

The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress, who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.

Metadata
Director Stephen Frears
Runtime 1 h 50 min
Release Date 6 May 2016
Details
Movie Status
Movie Rating Not rated
Images

 

florencefosterjenkins

I can’t make my mind up about Florence Foster Jenkins. Was she the likeable, vulnerable if eccentric character portrayed by Meryl Streep? Or was she the entitled, arrogant woman who was rich enough to surround herself with sycophants and never learned the truth until it killed her?
However, that aside and remembering that this is a film review and not an investigative report, the movie itself is great.   Meryl Streep is almost boring these days in her brilliant portrayals of a myriad of characters and FFJ is no exception.
If you’ve never heard of Mrs Jenkins, she was the rich socialite who decided she wanted to be an opera singer even though she couldn’t hold a note and eventually she sang at Carnegie Hall.  Since her death in 1944 her recordings have become classics, although for their comedic rather than their musical value.
There are many examples of her songs on the Internet and listening to them I was impressed with Meryl Streep’s accurate (if painful) renditions which must be difficult when you can actually sing.
Hugh Grant gave a charming performance as Florence’s common law husband and the relationship between them was as touching as it was unconventional. The strangely named Cosme McMoon (played by The Big Bang’s Simon Helberg) was her pianist who couldn’t believe his luck at being paid so much and couldn’t believe his ears at the noise he was being asked to accompany.
A warm and funny film but if you’re like me and need to dig deeper after watching any ‘based on a true story’ film I suggest that AFTER you’ve seen it you watch the full length documentary about Mrs Jenkins that can be found on YouTube.

The Lady in the Van

Published by:

Poster for the movie "The Lady in the Van"

The Lady in the Van

A mostly true story

20151 h 44 min
Overview

The true story of the relationship between Alan Bennett and the singular Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who ‘temporarily’ parked her van in Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years.

Metadata
Director Nicholas Hytner
Runtime 1 h 44 min
Release Date 12 September 2015
Details
Movie Status
Movie Rating Very good
Images
Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd

I had high expectations for this film and I wasn’t disappointed.  Maggie Smith was faultless in her role as the ‘noble vagabond’ Miss Shepherd who lived the last 15 years of her life in a van on writer, Alan Bennett’s London driveway.  Alex Jennings was superb as Alan Bennett to such an extent that when the real Bennett made a brief cameo at the end I wondered, for a split second, who was this imposter?

Played mostly for comedy there is an underlying pathos in the exploration of Bennett’s relationship with his mother and his own self deprecation.  “You wouldn’t see Harold Pinter pushing vans down the street!”  he mutters after being bullied into push starting Shepherd’s van.

The story itself (mostly true) is a little on the thin side and rather than a monologue we are given two Bennetts, the writer and the one who lived the ‘real life’.   This technique allowed us to see Bennett talking to himself about Shepherd as he coped with her less than fragrant presence on his driveway.

Special mention for the fabulous Frances De La Tour as Ursula Vaughan Williams.  I was surprised that James Corden ranked so high on the billing, if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen his complete role in the film.  One scene.

A sweet, unchallenging and heart-warming film.  Recommended.