Florence Foster Jenkins

I realise that so far the two Lolita enrichment posts weren’t about things that are accessible to everyone – those unable to read Japanese would only be able to look at photos. But this time I’m going to talk about a newly-released film. With Maryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg, so you know that even if you’re first language isn’t English, you can count on it coming your way with subtitles.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a film based on real events. To put it very simply, it’s about a woman called – yes, you guessed it – Florence Foster Jenkins, a rich American member of the upper class living in New York in the mi-1940s, and a patron of music. Music is her passion and she dreams of being an opera singer – so much so that even although she is an awful singer, which she doesn’t quite seem to realise, she pursues it anyway. Of course, there’s a lot more going on there, especially in terms of different characters’ stories and the relationships between them, but this is the driving force of the film.

The film is as delightful and funny as you’d imagine it to be, every cast member did a splendid job here. Even though most of the jokes are at Madam Florence’s expense, as a viewer I felt so much sympathy for her and rooted for her so much that there was no meanness in the laugh. A classic underdog story, but a very relatable one – I’m sure plenty of us dreamed of becoming singers, actors or dancers despite being bad at singing, acting or dancing.

Why do I think it’s a great film for Lolitas to watch? For two reasons, actually.

One, the simpler one, is the visual aspect of it. Florence Foster Jenkins is set in 1944, but thanks to the protagonist being a rich socialite, we get to view all sorts of gorgeous things, from fashion to interior designs. There are occasions where we get to see what regular Americans wore at the time too, but for the most part we’re immersed in Florence’s beautiful world of luxuries. Plenty of things to be inspired by and include in your own Lolita style or even Lolita lifestyle. Plus, as I just read, the real Florence Foster Jenkins designed her costumes, so if you needed any more inspiration to get crafty, here it is!

Taken from FYeahLolita blog.
But second and more important reason is something I already mentioned. On the one hand there’s something very admirable about Florence’s determination to pursue her passion, become an opera singer and perform – but on the other it’s hard not to feel that she’s coddled by her husband a little too much, given the lengths he goes to in order to shield her from any negative comments about her true singing abilities. I’m sure many Lolitas who are just starting out their journey with the fashion might find their own experiences reflected in the film. Nobody wants to think of themselves as an ita, but also nobody wants to be laughed at when they’ve put their whole heart and soul into something they’re passionate about. Accepting critique is very hard, especially when the criticism is as harsh as being laughed at, but being completely shielded from it won’t let you grow and become better at what you’re doing. In the film, Florence had a few good people who, while not exactly making her realise what her singing sounds like to them, stood by her when she needed them most, and that’s something that every beginner Lolita should have.

MINI-SPOILER: At the end of the film Florence says: some may say that I couldn’t sing, but no-one can sat that I didn’t sing. This is definitely an important message for everyone who wants to pursue something they’re passionate about, whatever it may be. Whether you go out and sing in front of an audience or post your photo to Closet of Frills, doing it is a great success in itself. Showing others what you do and how passionate you are about it takes courage and confidence, which not everyone has (as evidenced by the many Closet of Frills posts starting with this is my first time posting here). Even if you’re not a pro at it, kudos to you for having the guts to do it. Hopefully you will stick with that thing you’re doing, you’ll keep putting time, effort and heart into it and will have the support of those around you, so that you then do become a pro.

If you do get a chance to go out to see Florence Foster Jenkins in cinemas, I encourage you to do so. And take your Lolita friends with you too, maybe make a day out of it. Let me know what your thoughts were after you’ve seen it.

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