It wasn’t so long ago when there was only one movie to watch at a time in Iberia’s economy class. Their older-looking planes and entertainment system took me back to an era when people would socialize more (while flying too) and not expect to be video-entertained 24/7 (they would smoke instead). In the Iberia flights I’ve been over this decade, passengers still seemed to talk to each other and stand up more than most other airlines, for some reason – which is nice for a nervous flyer like me. Flying with the airline during these holidays, there were plenty of new releases to watch onboard as well as interaction among other people. So I was both a little less tense and less bored.
I looked for releases I knew had been playing in Leipzig cinemas in English at least until recently, so they would be more relevant to write about for LeipGlo. Now here I am, in the downtime between family outings and meals, fitting into this post two 2016 Hollywood movies I managed to watch during my 8.5-hour Miami flight.
They could make for some fun, happy watching these days, in the air or on the ground (hopefully with a full belly and a full heart). The films are both set in the early decades of the previous century, for those of you nostalgic for times you probably didn’t live in but wish you could have. The second Hollywood movie is actually partly set in the Hollywood of the golden years. Both have New York City as an integral part.
THE IN-FLIGHT MOVIES
Florence Foster Jenkins
IMDB rating: 7.0
My take: This film wouldn’t have been my first pick to watch in the cinema. I thought, “Ok, another movie where Meryl Streep sings badly but visibly has fun doing it, and gives a flawless acting performance. Predictable and not that exciting.” But on a plane, my standards are different. I must say the movie was enjoyable, except for the terrible singing itself, which in my opinion was inflicted upon us too many times. I guess they wanted us to feel how the title character’s audience felt in real life, and then make us (also) fall in love with her despite this. The strength and aliveness of her spirit amid her physical suffering are inspiring, and Streep wears yet another character like no one else probably could.
Plot: The protagonist, Florence Foster Jenkins, was an actual patron of the arts in New York City in the first half of the 20th century. She always wanted to be a musician, but her rich father forbade her, and made her marry a man who ended up ruining her life. She pours her money into the music scene and gives self-indulgent performances to NYC’s high society, in which people humor her. Her husband St Clair (a perfectly cast Hugh Grant) crafts a careful illusion over 25 years that she is actually a good singer, and pays people off to keep it going. St Clair even gets a young, ambitious pianist to (reluctantly and nervously) accompany her at Carnegie Hall. How he keeps the illusion up that long is not convincing to me in the movie, or even how word finally gets out and the way it is portrayed as affecting Florence. Maybe it actually happened like that, but I think more plot development would have been needed in the film.
Highlight: My favorite part in the movie was the love story between Florence and St Clair. A complex, sexless relationship based on a shared desire to be what they could never be. There are different kinds of love, as St Clair himself says, and this one struck me as more real than many physical ones. Although she provides well for him financially, there is no doubt in my mind his deep sacrifices for and dedication to the relationship are genuine. This is also due, of course, to Grant’s acting chops.
Director: Woody Allen
IMDB rating: 6.7
My take: Set in ritzy 1930s Hollywood and NYC, the movie is atmospheric and nice to look at. It’s part of a string of period pieces by impressively prolific writer and director Woody Allen in recent years. It’s not one of his masterpieces, but it’s a fun, easy hour and a half to get through with its lack of psychological complexity (which can be a little exhausting in other Allen movies). Its gangster subplot adds some welcome filth and dynamism, though I wish there would have been more of it to balance out the emo romantic stuff. As he steps back from acting, Allen has probably found his successor in actor Jesse Eisenberg, the main protagonist. No other actor has reminded me so much of Allen onscreen, and not only because of the Jewish heritage and NYC roots assigned to his character, like Allen assigns to his own. Eisenberg’s Bobby is considerably less neurotic and more naive than the characters Allen has played (all evidently based on himself), but just give it some time – there’s a lot of promise there. Kristen Stewart was surprisingly sort of likeable to me in this movie… but not as much as Blake Lively (her foil).
Plot: Bobby moves from NYC to Los Angeles to try his luck. His mother calls his uncle Phil, a Hollywood big shot, to try to get him a job in the film industry. After weeks of frustrated attempts, Bobby finally gets an appointment with Phil, who is willing to give him a foot in the door and introduce him to some people. Phil tells his assistant Vonnie to hang out with Bobby and show him around. Bobby falls in love with the girly, meek and modest Vonnie, who totally contrasts with the equal parts gorgeous and superficial Hollywood vixens. Little does he know, but Vonnie is having an affair with her boss (his uncle), and uses Bobby as a rebound as the older, married man strings her along and then breaks up with her. Just as her feelings for Bobby start to grow and they are preparing to move to NYC together, into a simpler and more authentic lifestyle, Phil separates from his wife and asks Vonnie to marry him. Guess whom Vonnie chooses? Bobby goes back to NYC and pulls a Great Gatsby.
Highlight: My favorite character was Blake Lively’s Veronica. She marries Bobby in NYC as he is rebounding from Vonnie. She is too good and too gorgeous for him. They actually have the same name, the two women, but the difference in the way they are called may also reflect their respective personalities and looks. While VONNIE (girly nickname) looks a bit like a teenage girl – one who doesn’t grow into her glamorous outfits and looks gaudy instead – and seems to have somewhat of a weak personality, VERONICA is a full-grown, stunning woman who is self-assured but also down-to-earth. She has had her share of suffering, having been abandoned by her previous husband for her best friend, but remains confident and with an endearing sense of humor. On their first date, she tells Bobby with a chuckle that her husband left her because her best friend “was better in bed.” She gives Bobby a shot, only to have another husband who is actually in love with someone else. It’s so tragic. Maybe it’s because she looks like a Hollywood vixen and the men are intimidated. I wish there would have been more of her character in this movie – we don’t have the pleasure of her “company” for nearly long enough, in my opinion.