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Old 03-18-2018, 02:47 PM   #35839
Al_The_Strange Al_The_Strange is offline
Blu-ray Prince
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Apr 2009
Out there...past them trees...
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Rough draft, very fresh first-time viewing--sorry in advance if anything about the grammar or my interpretation is off.

The Florida Project

Kids will make a paradise out of anything. Even cheap motels--it doesn't matter. The Florida Project is the paradise that a group of children make for themselves on the outskirts that orbit Disneyland, and despite all the rainbows and sunshine, it's a troubling backdrop for very real, harsh struggles.

For most of the film, the camera follows Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), a typical kid just being a kid with other kids. They run around, screaming, bugging people, spitting on cars, playing with everything they get their mitts on, breaking stuff, finding free food and cash. Life is good, right? Except for the parents--the whole time these kids run amok, Moonee's dipsh*t mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) seems to live an equally carefree life, the motel room her only home. A woman who respects nothing and nobody, but is constantly demanding special attention, exception, and handouts. Her mere presence sets off a downward spiral that endangers her, her daughter, her so-called friends, their kids, and the whole "magic kingdom" they're trapped in.

It's as bittersweet as a film can get. All the colorful buildings and sunny vistas paint a pleasant picture, and it's not hard to see the magic that all the kids see in an otherwise trashy environment. It's a testament to the resilience of children's minds and imaginations--it's both touching and spot-on. Overshadowing this, however, is the world of adults. A world of structure and rules, which Bobby Hicks (Willem Dafoe, in a performance that might be one of his absolute best, playing perhaps the most likable character in the film) dutifully upholds, despite being at odds with showing compassion towards the needy denizens of the motel. This is also a world of late-night parties, drugs, fist-fights, hustles, and overall poverty.

Captured with solid photography and snappy editing, the whole film is stitched together with many short vignettes that collectively show how getting the two worlds mixed up leads to trouble. Hally is a character I just love to hate--she has no desire and makes no attempt to earn a genuine living (in contrast to one of her friends, who distances herself after the kids did something very naughty--drama galore happens). Hally shrugs responsibility, disrespects authority, throws fits when she doesn't get her way (even if she blatantly breaks the law, which she does repeatedly). If she has any charm, it's any time she has fun with Moonee, and it seems like that's all she wants for the whole runtime. But her attitude and criminal behavior poisons the environment, to the point of driving away everyone else. It does not end well. Some might say that the film's ending is itself bad, dumb, stupid, or whatever--I think it's a metaphorical culmination of the whole story, suggesting that genuine paradise can only be achieved by breaking away from the spiral of poverty and the toxic environments of selfish people.

The film does succeed on many levels--it's a fairly compelling story with very real-looking performances and locales. Stylish, but not in-your-face about it. Equal parts charming and infuriating--it's simply too hard to look away or ignore. There is a subtle balance between the worlds of children and adults at play, but it avoids fairy-tale cliches and shows both kids and parents at their rawest. My only gripe about the film is that, in terms of pacing and plot momentum, it's a little herky-jerky.

The Florida Project
--chances are good you'll either love it for seeing the children playing, invoking nostalgia for the times when we all made our own kingdoms out of whatever mudhole we were in at the time, or you'll love it for the grittier adult drama revolving around these poor kids. Both collide with a somber outcome. I'd even go so far to say this might be a reflection on modern millennial/snowflake behavior and how it could endanger future generations when it gets out of control.

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