Florence Foster Jenkins :: Soppy, Big-hearted and Mad as a Vole…

Cineville - Florence Foster jenkins

I was surprised by how funny this film was. I laughed an awful lot. Florence Foster Jenkins, the woman, portrayed by Meryl Streep, is very funny indeed. Primarily, however, she's funny because she's completely delusional. Which isn't funny at all. I mean, she's mentally ill, quite out of touch with the reality of how things clearly are. So on the one hand, it isn't funny at all. But - for better or for worse - it's hilarious. Like Tourette's.

Florence believes she's a great singer when in fact she's unusually, you could even say extraordinarily bad at singing.

So the question throughout the film is: are we laughing at her? Or with her?

In the end it comes down to personal choice. How much of a shit are you? When someone is soaked by a passing car on a puddlesome day, are you convulsed with schadenfreude? How long does it last? Or are you one who empathises with your fellow human beings and winces instinctively on their behalf?

Cineville - Florence Foster jenkins


For me, it’s a little of both – or a lot of both maybe. I find her delusion hilarious – mostly because it’s just so incomprehensible – but I also feel enormous tenderness towards her.

The fact that she’s a woman of considerable means rather than an impoverished waif mitigates the tragedy of her plight, as there's less at stake - she's never going to end up on the streets - but it’s still impossible not to feel for her.

Cineville - Florence Foster jenkins


She’s soppy and big-hearted and ultimately, mentally unstable. But at the same time, she is completely harmless and quite loveable. 

Florence Foster Jenkins is a beautifully made film about following your dreams, even if your dreams are ridiculous. As Florence herself puts it at the end of the film:

‘People may say I couldn’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.’


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The Viewing

This was a spur of the moment viewing. I think there was a break in the clouds or something and swiftly and efficiently I was able to convince myself that I totally deserved a break.

It was my first time at this cinema. The Cinecenter on Lijnbaanscgracht, the same street my gym is on. Aah, yes, the gym. I remember that.

It was a small screening room - maybe space for 80 people? I'm not sure - my memory could be just totally making stuff up. They do, you know. Anyway, it was pretty full for a Friday afternoon, about half-full, all clustered around the middle.

As we waited, I noticed great blobs of light moving slowly around the room and realised eventually that they were actually mammals of some description, and that they were being broadcast into the room by a lampshade that was also a zoetrope. Can this be true? Birdsong was playing softly over the sound system as I realised, with a little flurry of joy, that they were horses. 

I mean, come on. You don't get that in the Peckhamplex

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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