I’ve been ducking screenings of Stephen Frears‘ Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount, 8.12) because, as I’ve muttered over and over, I don’t want to watch a film about a real-life rich socialite (played by Meryl Streep) who insisted on singing opera at a 1944 Carnegie Hall concert despite the fact that she couldn’t sing any better than you or me in the shower. (And perhaps worse — listen to this.)
But I’ve decided to man up and see it next Friday because of three reasons: (a) I’ve heard that Streep’s voice isn’t atrocious in the film. A friend who’s seen it says her singing-as-Jenkins “isn’t completely embarassing…she can’t sing but she almost gets there“; (b) Older audiences are lapping it up, and the afore-mentioned friend speculates that Streep “will probably be [Best Actress] nominated, which happens almost every time”; and (c) the theme of Florence Foster Jenkins is that the love of singing is what counts, and not whether you’re any good at it.
Alternate slogan: If singing makes you feel good, do it in front of others. Even if you murder every song you interpret.
I beg to differ with that. Most of us would, I think. If you can’t sing you should stick to the shower or your car — period.
What previous films have subjected audiences to singing that’s difficult to handle? Claire Trevor‘s pathetic a cappela scene in John Huston‘s Key Largo (’48). Gwen Welles‘ grotesque singing scene in Robert Altman‘s Nashville (’75). Elizabeth Olsen‘s country music singing in Marc Abraham‘s I Saw The Light (’15). Who else?
During a visit to Los Angeles in ’81 I was singing along with Elton John‘s “Honky Cat” as I drove down Sunset. I was really belting it out. And then, as I stopped at a light near the Bel Air gate, I happened to look to my right. In the car next to me were two jerkoffs grinning and staring and waving. I saw red. My mediocre singing is my affair, you asswipes. It’s between me and Elton John. Pretend you don’t notice, keep your eyes on the road. I was thisclose to jumping out and running over and kicking the door of their car.
You know who could really sing, had great pipes, always hit the notes? Noddy Holder. Just sayin’.