Sunday, March 18, 2018

the florida project 2017

The film gets its title from the original Disney name given for the massive Amusement park located in Orlando Florida when it was in the planning stages. Directed by the impressive Sean Baker who shot his last film “Tangerine” on the budget of well a tangerine and on several iPhones no less blasts out and on to the major filmmakers circle of honor with this touching yet sometimes obvious take on childhood with its simple joys and large perils.
The film is set in a lavender colored motel called “The Magic Castle” a hop skip and a big jump from the Disney castle but might as well be on another planet and sometimes the movie does have an otherworldly feel to it. This is a place where down and outs, welfare moms and other marginalized folks live in simple rooms for $38.00 a day and all the bed bugs you can kill. Helicopters fly overhead day and night, and the threat of violence is always there ready to pounce without warning, and it sometimes does.
The motel is managed by Bobby played with realism and soul by the great Willem daFoe who just received a well deserved Oscar nomination for his performance. Bobby, daFoe’s character has sympathy and humanity but doesn’t take crap from anyone including an ancient pedophile who hangs out at the pool where the young kids play or the ragged blowsy old dame who insists on going topless also at the pool. His main take up time is with keeping the motel in good shape and keeping the troubled single mom Halley played with hard surfaces, blue hair and lots of tats by a very good Bria Vinaite in line.
Her usually impossible 6 year old daughter Moonee who is played winningly and I might add annoyingly (I would have a hard time with this kid) by Brooklynn Prince and a star is born. Moonee runs wild with her small pack of like minded friends and are constantly causing problems and trouble sometimes in dangerous ways.
Baker takes great pleasure showing us the down and outs of life and in “Tangerine” he did this with the underbelly of L.A. all dark and neon lit with all night diners and stark incidents and sassy dialogue involving transvestites and their wayward boyfriends, nasty stuff but with lovely humanity.
Here in Florida its all pastel but still nasty and rundown even with a glorious real rainbow making an appearance and fireworks in the nighttime sky, still this life shown is also down and out, even if there is a nice pool. The mother is trouble, nasty, foul language and sometimes criminal but there is no doubt that she loves her Moonee but treats her like a sister or friend instead of a daughter and this is no good for anyone especially the child. There are some passages that are obvious and some have complained that the characters are superficial and thin, not filled in with much depth and that the climax is expected and obvious but then Baker throws in an unexpected ending which should make you hum or at least smile. He co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Bergoch and Baker also is credited with the editing and a special note of pleasure to the great cinematographer Alexis Zabe for this beautifully filmed work. I’ve always loved and related to movies about kids from The 400 Blows, Night Of The Hunter, Kes, The Long Day Closes, Forbidden Games, The Little Fugitive, The Fallen Idol and many others and I can now add This joyous little gem to the group. One of the best films of 2017


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