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Double Feature-Florence Foster Jenkins and Sully

Jonathan Hinshaw - Sunday, September 11, 2016

Just saw a great movie, Florence Foster Jenkins, based on a true story, and starring  Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, August: Osage County), Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Simon Helberg (Howard on the Big Bang Theory), and Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, Hercules).

The story is that Florence was an heiress from New York who wants to be an opera singer, wants to sing at Carnegie Hall.  She is married to Hugh, who has a girl friend (Rebecca) on the side.  Hugh is still a devoted husband, wants to help her get on stage.  So he hires Simon as a piano player to accompany her on her quest for the bright lights.  Simon is at first flattered, beat out lots of competitors to get the paying gig.  He realizes quickly she cannot sing, she defines tone-deaf!  Hugh says I am paying you a lot of money to work the piano, so just do it.  He does. 

Meryl has a couple of recitals, Hugh is able to bribe the reviews to sound not-so-bad.  She then wants to record a record, again, Hugh is able to buy his way into a studio, get a record put together.  The record gets some play time, she now wants to hit the stage!

Turns out not many people want to hear a tone deaf person sing, ends up she buys 1000 tickets to Carnegie Hall, gives them to the army, those soldiers want a night out on the town, especially for free. 

The concert doesn’t go as planned, Hugh tried to bribe a good review from the Post social editor, he was in the audience, left early.  Hugh and Simon have a large party with adult beverages afterwards, they both collapse at his apartment.  Meryl comes over, she is looking for the reviews.  Hugh and Simon buy all of the Post papers, so she cannot see what they really thought.  She finds out anyway, it goes south fast. 

Ending is pure Meryl, she has a knack for drawing us in, then making a left turn with a surprise.  Stay for the credits, tells what happened to the real people in this drama.  We really enjoyed it, go with 4 stars. 

And now, a double feature!  We just saw Sully, with Tom Hanks (Castaway, Forrest Gump), Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Olympus Has Fallen), Laura Linney (The Truman Show, Mystic River), Mike O’Malley (Concussion, Eat Pray Love), and Katie Couric as herself. 

As you all know, this is the story about Chesley Sullenberger who famously piloted a UA flight into the Hudson River on Jan 15th, 2009, saving all 155 souls on board.  What you don’t know is the back story.  An investigation starts, Mike O’Malley heads up a team of analysts to be Monday morning quarterbacks, see how that plane ended up in the river.  Why he didn’t head for land, why he didn’t fire up the left engine, which the computer showed still running?  The answers to these questions have the potential to derail Sully’s career, over 40 years as a successful pilot ruined by the last 208 seconds.  He may lose his pension as well as his reputation. 

Aaron Eckhart plays the co-pilot very well, he does what he is instructed to do during the 208 seconds of that flight.  The story is told in flashback style, and the movie opens with a dream sequence, a little confusing.  Laura Linney plays his wife who is at home with the two kids, hearing all about this on TV and trying to communicate with Sully via late nite calls, she is great.   A emotional moment (and there are several) is when Sully lands that plane in the river, and finally get all the people off the plane, into rescue boats, and onto dry land, he calls her to let her know he is OK.  She has no idea, he tells her to turn on the TV, is it dramatic. 

To make things a little more exciting, the water temperature is 36 degrees, wind chill is -5, this is New York in Jan!  15-20 minutes in the water, and you can slip into a coma, maybe never come back.  Much of the actual footage from that day is included in the movie, it is something to see.  If he had hit the water too fast (he landed on the water at 140 MPH), he may have torn off the wings, instant sinking.  Or worse, if he hit the tail end too hard, the plane could take a nose dive, break into sections, a disaster.  Instead, he hit just right, the plane floated along like a boat, people were able to stand on the wings, wait for rescue boats. 

Couple of things you may not know about Sully: he is an accomplished glider pilot, which came in handy when he had to fly an Airbus 320 with no engines.  He has a consulting business on airplane safety (Safety Reliability Methods), which came in handy in this sort of emergency.  And the Airbus 320 has a “ditch switch” which closes up the vent ports under the aircraft’s float line.   So this was sort of a perfect storm. 

This was a great movie, shows how the government agencies can see things in a different light, different than the two guys in the cockpit.  The last part of the movie moves us into a government hearing, where 75 or so interested parties heard testimony and actual flight recordings of what went down.  They also played computer simulations, things went from bad to worse.  Sully is amazing in keeping his composure in the river landing, and during the hearings.  May and I loved it, go with 4 river rescues.   

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