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Saturday
Oct072017

NYFF: The Florida Project

by Jason Adams

When I was eight years old my mother and I finally moved out of the room we had been renting since my parents had divorced into our own house. The house was so small the movers had to break our bed-frame in half to get it up the staircase, but it was ours. A house! A home. The day after we moved in the police showed up at our door and took my mother away - in order for us to get our own place she had stolen money from the laundromat she worked at. I went and lived with my grandmother for awhile after that.

I take films about poverty as a deeply serious business...

I didn't like Beasts of the Southern Wild because director Benh Zeitlin went too far in fantasizing Hushpuppy's hard reality - that was a deeply unpopular opinion at the time (and remains so, I think) but now that I'm seeing the same claims laid at the feet of The Florida Project I have to say (even though it's admittedly unfair to pit movies against each other like this) The Florida Project feels like a course correction to me. It rights what Southern Wild mistepped.

Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) lives in a world that begs for romanticization - Sean Baker's camera surrounds her with a Magic Kingdom, even if it is only the dank corners where the cockroaches have scuttled. Giant floating Wizard Heads and Ice Cream Cones Towers abound - you can see the gunk spackled over and the pink's a little too puce by way of puke, but you can see how a kid would look around and see another world.

Sean Baker does not make the same mistake. Moonee's world is never magical. There is no swell of majestic music, there is no parade of fantastical creatures around the corner. There is a pedophile from New Jersey standing in the parking lot. The children's screams are shrill, pointed, and the rooms they do their screaming in are small and have hard walls that echo. Even as his downtrodden characters charm us - Baker clearly loves every single person he puts inside his camera and feeds off their nasty wise humor of the doomed - we never lose sight of the squalor.

Nor should we. There was no romance that day I lay on that broken bed watching strange men cart my mother away. Poverty is often humiliating and desperate. No not always, but we get more than our fair share, and we're often forced to make ridiculous sacrifices - noble and ridiculous; useless pointless things the better-off can't even begin to comprehend. If a movie can't be honest about that then it does its subject a disservice. The Florida Project is deeply honest.

 

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Reader Comments (17)

thank you for the review of the film and for sharing your story. i had the same reservations about beasts of the southern wild and you're correct - they weren't / aren't popular views. looking forward to seeing the florida project.

October 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCharles O

I found this very moving to read, Jason. So thanks for sharing. I think it's really important that we all have perspective about our distance or nearness from the experiences we're watching dramatized and to keep an open mind about how that affects us.

October 7, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

jason, thanks for this personal and insightful review. i agree with you 100% on Beasts of the Southern Wild as well! eager to see this film for sure.

October 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEricB

Great write-up, JA.

October 7, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

To echo others, thank you for sharing your personal story. Perspective like that can really connect (or disconnect) a moviegoer to the film in question, and hearing others’ own real-life experiences with the subject matter can shade our understanding and appreciation of film narratives even more. So thank you for that, Jason. Xoxo...

October 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Really beautiful honest write up. Thank you.

October 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

Jason, I'm just in awe of your work lately. So glad you loved the film, but you really did it justice here.

October 7, 2017 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

Coming from a single mother home, I have memories of deeply desperate times too.

Thanks for sharing your story. <3

Very much looking forward to this movie.

October 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Thanks for sharing your story. Also just saw the film today. I was deeply affected. It was both devastating and delightful.

October 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Beautiful review Jason.

October 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

I'm stuck on the personal portion of your piece.

October 8, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

This was a beautifully personal review. Between this and your thoughts at MNPP on "Call Me By Your Name," you are breaking my heart in the most lovely way.

October 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

Lovely film, lovely review of said film.

October 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Amazing write-up and I am so sorry you went through all that.

October 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatt St.Clair

Thanks everybody for the kind words!

One thing that his film really nails the defiance that bubbles up in desperate situations - defiance that some people read as "unapologetic trashiness" but they just don't get it. I had these three blue-haired critics who'd clearly never seen a food-stamp in their life sitting next to me at the screening of this and when it ended they went on and on about how dirty they felt and "Why would we want to spend time with these people" and I almost started knocking heads.

October 9, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Best movie so far this year! Absolutely loved it.

October 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Beautiful, moving review of a beautiful, moving film. Thank you.

October 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen

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