Florence Foster Jenkins
“The real Cosme McMoon was Mexican-Irish. In Florence Foster Jenkins, his actor is white.”
Title: Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
Writer: Nicholas Martin 👨🏼🇬🇧
Director: Stephen Frears 👨🏼🇬🇧
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Silly and entertaining, with some real moments of sadness. All made more fascinating knowing that Florence Foster Jenkins was a real woman. Ultimately, however, not a very memorable movie.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
GradeMyMovie.com Assessment: 42% of creative decision-makers were female
Being that the main character is female, Lady Florence gets plenty of screen time and the cast is padded with a few more women. None especially deep, but neither are the men. I dinged half a point for no especial feminism or complexity. Though, I did find Agnes’ bawdy character delightful.
* I kept track of female vs male voices for just over an hour, and the spread was 45% Female vs 55% Male (22:22mins vs 27:21mins)–impressive, compared to the paltry amounts normally found on TV and in film. (Though, I did tally Lady Florence’s singing as “voice time”, so that skews heavily in her favor than if I’d only recorded “speaking time”).
GradeMyMovie.com Assessment: 8% of creative decision-makers were POC
Not a focal point, but I also doubt that diversity was very much a part of Florence Foster Jenkins’ real life in the 1920s so I’ll let it slide a bit. Plus, multiple black characters can be found in crowd shots and party scenes, despite them only making up 4.8% of the population in Manhattan in 1920.* I’ve seen plenty of movies eschew them entirely, as if people of color didn’t exist before the Civil Rights movement.
However, I’m taking off a full point for whitewashing McMoon, who was Mexican-American (with a dash of Irish from his grandparents). The actor, Simon Helberg, is Jewish-American and while I understand that he was cast largely due to his piano-playing skill, I still wonder how long we’re going to keep making excuses for whitewashing. (For as long as it takes to lift entire swaths of economically- and societally-oppressed minorities, I suppose :P).
Seeing as how the original Cosme McMoon was gay, the writers were served a softball with this one. So yes, it’s good for this category that one of the main characters is gay. As for how it’s handled, the writers don’t mess with LGBTQ identity much in this film, but neither do they fuck it up.
Mediaversity Grade: B- (3.50/5)
Florence Foster Jenkins is an enjoyable movie, with strong performances by Meryl Streep and Simon Helberg. However, it’s pretty fluffy and doesn’t make any statements about race or queer identity, despite one of its main characters being a closeted gay man. Its one strength is robust screen time for women, which nearly reaches parity with men in this film.
* U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0076/NYtab.pdf