Capsule Review: Florence Foster Jenkins

This film, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant lands more with a bittersweet touch then with a mighty roar of laughter. And surprisingly, although Streep gives her usual top-notch performance, it’s more a vehicle that’s tailor-made for Hugh Grant than for anyone else. He plays a husband who strays, but is also devoted to his eccentric and wealthy wife. Grant’s specialty seems to be playing the cad who somehow endears himself to others.

Meryl Streep is a naturally unwavering and solid performer. Unpeeling the layers of the character behind Jenkins, and finding out her motivations are her strong suits. This role is more reminiscent of the Oscar-nominated one she played in  Julie & Julia back in 2009. In this part, she peels back the layers and when the veil is lifted at some point, Streep finds the “hook” of the character. In this case, we find in this unusual character the backstory behind her insistence on carrying with her a briefcase at all times.

In Grant’s performance, we see the unwavering devotion and the mixed messages of love and infidelity that go hand in hand with his character. In the case of Jenkins, the triumph of the will and the strength of an indomitable human spirit are bound together. This seems almost the flip side of Sophie in Sophie’s Choice-where Sophie ultimately had no choice. This film is based on the true story of a privileged individual who rose above not just the unexpected handicap and burden of great wealth and all the damage it can wreak, but also the great personal tragedy and loss that can and often does mold character. In this story, it gives new meaning and focus to a life that adapts and finds a way, inspired by a love of music, to rise above the pain and suffering. Jenkins is portrayed as just such a motivated individual.

This is not a hilarious comedy, but a bittersweet one, with subtlety and humor interspersed with some strident notes and sweet glimpses into the human condition.

Cafe Society: The Allen Brand


Cafe soc 2016
The Allen Brand

This film features the typical Allen “brand”. There’s the same logo, the same type of music, and the same headings. The plot features the same type of schleppy Jewish male prototype (Jesse Eisenberg). There are the standard knock-off Allen jokes. In this one, they are delivered by an intellectual type and a Jewish mother. Allen narrates the movie but there’s a problem. The Plot is extremely thin. There’s a three-way romance going on with Kristen Stewart/Eisenberg/and a much older man played by Steve Carell. That’s it.

The questions about Allen still exist. I’ve written about the allegations before. But Woody Allen has been a creative force in Hollywood for decades and as I’ve stated, his work should stand alone and be judged as such.And if you look at this part of his body of work, as an artist, all you find is thin, weak gruel disguised as a movie. How he gets the green light for his projects and still has the ability to make this pabulum for his followers is a mystery. This is just not good enough. Had there been a wrinkle in the formula, a funny sidekick, or a side story that was interwoven into the main action, or a twist or variation in the ending, then this might pass as an interesting light comedy.

But none of those things happened in this film. You must take Allen’s work at face value. He plays it for what it is-a homage to New York, a dying way of life, an ode to the young Jewish comic persona he created, and a rather stereotyped and jaded look at Hollywood and the movie industry. That also applies to his view of women, (stereotyped and jaded). In the end, the body of work which includes not just classics like Annie Hall, but also Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, Manhattan, Radio Days and Hannah and her Sisters means that Woody Allen is a creative genius with a spot in the panoply of Cinema Greats.

These vintage, Allen-esque portraits, frozen in time, depict New York and Allen’s view of it as the highly encapsulated world that he intends it to be. It’s all part of the creative process we’ve had the privilege to view as he displayed his foibles and bared his soul in the process. Sadly, we see the waning days of a genius who has given us so much and has seen better days. Allen should retire gracefully, and those who are in his position seldom do the right thing. This film should have been sketched on a storyboard and stored in the drawer. Unfortunately for the Allen loyalists, he may have a few more duds like this in his head, and like this one, they should never see the light of day.

Summertime and the return of the Bad B’s



Summertime is here and one of the funniest pastimes for me, as a movie critic, is just reading the synopses of some of the old Beach Movies that people flocked to see during the summer. (I think they flocked to them, or they wouldn’t have made at least seven of these Bad B Beach films!)

I recently compiled a short list of the best of the blurbs. Here are a few favorites:

  • It’s a Bikini World: When a female scientist turns down a playboy’s pass, he poses as his own brother to win her heart.
  • Muscle Beach Party: The beach gang goes head-to-head with the bodybuilders at a new gym that’s interfering with their strip on the sand.
  • Gidget: A young girl dreams of winning acceptance from a gang of surfers.
  • Gidget Goes Hawaiian: A surfer girl triggers romantic confusion during a Hawaiian vacation.
  • Beach Blanket Bingo: The surfing gang rescues a beautiful girl from a gang of evil bikers.
  • How to Stuff a Wild Bikini: When he’s stationed in Tahiti, a sailor hires a witch doctor to keep an eye on his girlfriend.

Frankie Annette 3

We all talk of the light and lovable period of time when these films were made. Sure, they were sexist and made light of violent biker gangs and surfers without jobs or ambition in life. Sure, the films exposed the dumbing-down of America and the vapid content was overkill, even topping the syrupy sentiment of the hits Doris Day starred in during this era.

There may have been some maturation of the character of Gidget as she progressed through the series of moronic pictures. But, the entire culture of Beach movies was enough to produce the counter-culture that came into existence in the late sixties.

The films stand alone as some of the worst series of films ever made. Only some bad-b Japanese movies are in the running to compete with the moronic vapidity on display in this film series. But…if you like Bad-B movies, and I admit to being quite a connoisseur of the art, then some of these films may actually make it to the finals.

Not quite on the order of Plan 9 from Outer Space, but some of the material in these films is noteworthy. And by that I mean, worthy of taking note of how poorly the film was made, edited, written, acted in and directed.

I have written about Bad-B’s before, and I’ve resurrected that post for those fans of Bad B. If there are some films that may have slipped under the radar, please write to me at I’d love to compile a list of reader Bad-B’s for a new top 10 List. Here’s one from Rotten Tomatoes:

10. Showgirls- 1995
9.Battlefield Earth-2000
8. Glen or Glenda-1953
7. Plan 9 from Outer Space-1959
6.Robot Monster- 1953
5. Howling II-1985
4. The Black Gestapo-1975
3. Frankenstein Island-1981
2. Road House- 1989
1. The Oscar-1966