Sunday, August 14, 2016

Simon's big bang performance as Cosmé McMoon

We saw the movie Florence Foster Jenkins today.

In the 1940s, New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) dreams of becoming a great opera singer. Unfortunately, her ambition far exceeds her talent. The voice Florence hears in her head is beautiful, but to everyone else it is quite lousy. Her husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) goes to extreme lengths to make sure his wife never finds out how awful she truly is. When Florence announces her plans for a concert at Carnegie Hall, St. Clair soon realizes that he's facing his greatest challenge yet.

I don't know what more can be said about Meryl Streep. She's surely acknowledged to be the greatest actress of our time — and if there were an Olympics of acting, she'd win the gold medal every time out. (She's been nominated for 19 Oscars, more than any other person in history. Why she hasn't won 19 Oscars will always be a mystery to me.)

She plays the lovable, eccentric, generous Florence with just an edge of foolish but never enough that you lose respect or affection for her. Florence is a woman who loves music with such passion that it rules her life and her relationships and her very self-image. Meryl walks a careful line and gives us a beautiful character.

And Hugh Grant? I've always liked Hugh Grant. His reputation has taken a few hits but I've always enjoyed his acting. I always found him quite romantic. He plays Florence's loyal loving spouse while living in a very familiar way with a pretty young woman a taxi-ride away.

But the real joy in this movie is the actor who plays Cosmé McMoon, Florence's accompanist as she pursues her dream of singing opera.

Do you recognize him? This is Simon Helberg, best known as Howard Wolowitz on TV's The Big Bang Theory. Simon plays Cosmé with an innocent, intelligent, funny personality — and a different voice and different face from Howard's. Not only that, he plays the piano. He had studied piano to the level of concert pianist and that secured the acting job for him. He's an amazing choice and I can't say enough about his wonderful performance.

He was paralyzed with nerves when they went to Carnegie Hall but he came through in a professional and loving way for Florence. By then he had become a co-conspirator with St. Clair to keep from Florence the awful truth of what a terrible singer she was.

It's a sweet movie. It's well-written, well-acted, funny and it's a tear-jerker. I enjoyed it a lot and if you haven't seen it, maybe you would too.

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