Two Movie Reviews (2016Dec13)


Tuesday, December 13, 2016                                           11:30 PM

“Suicide Squad” & “Florence Foster Jenkins”

suicidsquad

“Suicide Squad”:

There was a burst of potentially-watchable movies in my video menu this morning—all kinds of movies—must be the run-off from the summer-movie influx in theaters. It’s strange for those of us who wait for the movie to leave the theater and get onto cable—we see the summer movies in winter, and the holiday movies in summer.

I started with “Suicide Squad”. I’ve pretty much had it with comic book retro-fits—and Suicide Squad is a poor excuse for even a comic book. But I like Will Smith—and I always enjoy it when some hot young actress does a star turn as a psycho-killer, as Margo Robbie does in this. But sometimes the over-arching concept of one team of good guys against a team of bad guys can strain the bounds of credulity—even within the ‘willing suspension’ paradigm.

In this movie, a ‘transdimensional’ witch with seemingly unlimited power, both natural and supernatural, stands against a group of admittedly tough customers—but none of them equipped to face down something from beyond the limits of time and space. Well, there’s one—a reluctant pyrokinetic with supernatural powers of his own.

But the rest of them have to be kept busy fighting minions of the witch, to distract from the fact they can’t possibly fight her. It’s just senseless—and believe me, I’ve swallowed a lot of sci-fi and comic book foolishness in service of maintaining my willing suspension of disbelief—and enjoying the story—but there has to be a minimal coherence to the thing. I need to be accorded that much respect.

Anyway, for a two-hour movie full of nonsense, it went by fairly quickly and painlessly. I gave it a few hours, then I went back.

florfostrjenkins

“Florence Foster Jenkins”:

I went back earlier this evening for another film, “Florence Foster Jenkins”, starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg.

There was a French film on Netflix recently, “Marguerite” (2015), with a similar story—a moneyed matron of the arts is surrounded by sycophants who never tell her that she has a terrible singing voice—a secret carefully kept by a mad-cap retinue, using carefully-curated venues and selectively-bribed music critics to maintain the illusion until the catastrophe of a large, uncontrolled, public performance threatens to expose the entire charade.

Both films claim some basis in historical fact—but the French film is set at the turn of the century and the American film is set in 1940s New York. This leads me to wonder if rich woman are historically misled about their true abilities—and, if so, why? But beyond that question, there’s the tone of such a movie. In the case of “Florence Foster Jenkins”, much like “Marguerite”, there’s a contradiction between the hilarity of bad singing and the tragedy of a person being lied to by everyone around that person—supposed friends and lovers who, whether through kindness or avarice are, nonetheless, doing the poor woman no favors.

Even the surprising tenderness that Hugh Grant brings to his role as FFJ’s husband cannot render this story a happy one—or a particularly funny one, since the impending slip-on-a-banana-peel is always the looming exposure and destruction of the woman’s sense-of-self. Meryl Streep brings humor to the character, but for me, the set-up is more suitable for a psychological horror-thriller, such as ‘Gaslight’, than for any light-hearted costume-comedy.

No one could fault the technical efforts, or the performances of the cast, in this film—but I guess I’m just too squeamish to enjoy laughing at someone who insists on making music badly—perhaps it cuts a little too close to home for me. Yes, that’s probably it—I see a little too much of my own musical strivings in the story of “Florence Foster Jenkins”.

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