Movie Review – The Florida Project (2017)

Adulting is hard.

Sadly, kidding (child-ing?) is getting even harder.

BQB here with a review of “The Florida Project.”

I’m not totally sure what the point of this film was.  It’s not exactly plot driven.  It meanders quite a bit.  Large chunks of the film are devoted to young child actors around six years old, saying lines that I’m not sure they’d ever really say if there wasn’t someone, I can only imagine but not confirm, hanging off camera promising candy or toys or something.

Obviously, the overall intent is to give the world a glimpse into what life is like for the poverty stricken, as well as the lives of those whose job it is to take care of them.

On the strip leading to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, there’s a series of tourist traps – hotels, discount gift shops, all catering to folks who are visiting the House of Mouse on a budget.  The film doesn’t quite explain it well but there was a time, before Disney developed the ever loving crap out of its property, when tourists who wanted to save a buck would go have fun at the parks then stay at a cheap, non-Disney motel.  Today, Disney has a vast array of hotels catering to almost every type of budget.

So, if this film is to be believed, many of the strip motels have turned into sad, depressing welfare slums.  Once such establishment is “The Magic Castle,” where young mother Halley (Bria Vinai) lives on a weekly cash basis with her six year old daughter, Moonee (Brooklyn Prince.)

Sidenote – if your name is Brooklyn that’s like, a guarantee your parents were all like, “this kid is becoming a child actor!” right?

The film strings together a series of shenanigans.  Moonee and her young pals from the motel wander about aimlessly, spitting on cars, throwing dead fish into pools, harassing paying customers and generally making life miserable for Bobby, the motel’s overworked, underpaid, vastly put upon and long suffering manager, played by Willem Dafoe, whose presence, honestly, is the only thing that makes the film watchable.

Covered with tattoos and constantly high, Halley is unemployed and unemployable, making money by begging tourists for cash, occasionally running scams to bilk them out of money and yes, even turning tricks.  You get the general sense that she wants to do right by her daughter but are unsure if it’s just that impossible to pull herself out of the proverbial hole she’s in or if she’s so drugged up she’s not able to help herself in any way.

It becomes clear that poverty is inter-generational, though whether bad parenting leads to poverty or poverty causes bad parenting is sort of a chicken vs. the egg argument.  Halley’s life sucks and you are led to feel sorry for her and realize there are so many people trapped in such difficult circumstances.

At the same time, we see other parents in the motel who are similarly poor, yet they stay off drugs, work menial wage jobs and are actively attempting to better their lives and instill morals in their kids, making the most of the little they have.

Amidst this mess is Bobby, who might have one of the most thankless jobs I’ve ever seen.  He works tirelessly, fixing broken equipment, painting, repairing, moving heavy stuff and the second something goes wrong, the tenants he’s given thousands of passes to on their mistakes rip his head off and raise hell over the slightest problems.

I’m inclined to think that Bobby is every adult in your life who a) wasn’t your parent but b) had a job that required him to help you and c) yelled at you for something bad you did or some rule you broke and you think he’s just an asshole because all you saw was the stern facade.  You didn’t see how he returns to his office and looks so pained because he knows you’re suffering and yet there’s little he is able to do to help you.

Despite a rule that prevents tenants from staying too long and becoming permanent residents, Bobby helps Halley circumvent this rule by moving her every so often to a different room within the motel.  Moonee raises hell and drives other guests nuts, constantly breaks things and makes more work for Bobby.  Meanwhile, Halley’s extracurricular activities bring all kinds of heat for the motel.

In short, Bobby could throw this problem customer out on the street any time and improve his life 100 percent and yet, he refuses to do so, putting his own job on the line because his gut tells him that something bad will happen if he doesn’t bend the rules and let Halley and Moonee stay.

If this a spoiler, then so be it, but literally, at no time, does Halley ever show any kind of acknowledgment that she understands Bobby is doing her a favor.  Halley makes all sorts of demands for Bobby to overlook the rules, let it go that she’s late with her rent, forget that she’s doing all sorts of bad things or that her unsupervised kid is driving everyone nuts.  Yet, when Bobby asks Halley for just a little bit of help in complying with the rules, she freaks out, leading to a used maxi pad being slapped on his office window in one gross out scene.

SIDENOTE  – I’ve seen tampons and pads being thrown at helpless victims in too many films now.  Is this something women dream about doing all day long now?  Whenever someone pisses them off, they just want to whip out their bloody cooch covers and whip ’em at some poor, unsuspecting schmuck?

Mixed feelings.  It’s more of a learning experience/acted out documentary than a fun movie.  There are some emotional parts though.  Poverty is hard and nearly impossible to break out of.  Good parenting and/or harping on kids to do the right thing can increase the chances of breaking out of it.

Perhaps there’s some irony that all these kids are suffering and are poor when just down the road there’s a theme park where wealthier parents dump tons of cash on toys, candy, rides and fun for their little brats.

But ultimately, the most I got out of it is that there are probably a million Bobbies out there – low level business employees who see people suffering hardships all day, who may come across as hardasses laying down rules but also are never thanked when they bend the rules and put their jobs and livelihood on the line to help those in need.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Not sure the film itself is Oscar worthy though Dafoe’s performance is and he is overdue for some recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

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