I'm open to new things in cinema. Especially over the past few years, I've really tried to embrace new filmmaking techniques and visions in understanding that everyone has their own unique stories to tell. That being said, because cinema is (at the end of the day) an entertainment medium, I also strongly believe that a film must have a message. That message doesn't have to be overtly political or overtly any one thing, but for me there does need to be some over-arching concepts that justify why this can be an entertaining experience. That is exactly where "The Florida Project" severely let me down.
For a basic plot summary, this film tells the story of Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), a child living in a dilapidated motel on the outskirts of Disney World in Florida. Moonee basically runs around with a couple of other friends her age having adventures and stirring up much mischief along the way while her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) is jobless and must "hustle" (in multiple formats) to keep a roof over their heads. The owner of the motel, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), also struggles between being a "good cop" or a "bad cop" to the activities he sees at his motel on a daily basis.
"Florida Project" is obviously supposed to be about as gritty, bleak, and true-to-life film as has ever been made. In my mind, it actually succeeds at that far too well, in a sense. If the overall goal of the picture is to showcase what poverty looks like (and I think it is), why not just film reality? It's not like this film really adds any storytelling structure of its own, instead meandering from place to place following Moonee. From the very beginning, I didn't know what I was supposed to be watching (or watching for, if you will), and I was no closer to that realization once the credits rolled.
Another major issue I struggled with in the movie is how there does not seem to be anything redeemable about any of these characters (aside from very slight glimpses). Sure, Halley seems to love her daughter...but also uses her to scam people and evoke sympathy. There is never any mention of Halley trying to find a job or otherwise help their extreme poverty. A similar line of thought can be applied to Dafoe's character. Yes, he "helps" Halley bend/break the rules a bit so she can continue to stay at the motel...but isn't he really just enabling her? The bottom line, for me, is that when Child Protective Services came to take Moonee from Halley in the end, I was actually glad to see it, not sad like the film wanted me to be. Obviously, then, the rather dramatic ending sequence did nothing for me.
All of that being said, I also realize that I seem to be the outlier here, as the film is getting generally very positive reviews and ratings. As I said in my opener, I think that is because I need to see more of a message in a film to really get behind it. Besides showing extreme poverty (which I argue could be done in any major city in the U.S. just by setting up a camera), I either did not understand or did not fall in line with what director Sean Baker wanted to project onto the viewing experience.
The Florida Project
The Florida Project
Halley lives with her six year old daughter Moonee in a budget motel along one of the commercial strips catering to the Walt Disney World tourist clientele outside Orlando, Florida. Halley, who survives largely on welfare, has little respect for people, especially those who cross her, it an attitude that she has passed down to Moonee, who curses and gives the finger like her mother. Although the motel's policy is not to allow long term rentals, Bobby, the motel manager, has made arrangements for people like Halley to live there while not undermining the policy as he realizes that many such tenants have no place to go otherwise. Halley, Moonee and Moonee's friends, who live in the motel or others like it along the strip and who she often drags into her disruptive pranks, are often the bane of Bobby's existence, but while dealing with whatever problem arises, Bobby has a soft spot especially for the children and thus, by association, their parents, as he knows that Moonee and others ...
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February 10, 2018 at 07:11 AM