The people I've talked to who have seen this movie all use the same word to describe it that I do. Heartbreaking.
The filmmaker behind Tangerine brings us this movie, which looks at the lives of those well below the poverty line in Orlando, through the eyes of six year old Moonee. Moonee lives in a discount hotel with her mom, Halley, who hustles her way to paying the rent every week. But Moonee for the most part is happy, going on adventures with the other kids who live nearby and discovering the forgotten parts of the city that represents so much excess to the rest of the country and the world.
This film is heartbreaking on multiple levels. For one, just the poverty that these families live in is devastating. You see how what they go through to barely scrape by in living conditions that most of us would never survive in. But I think what breaks my heart more is the small joys that they find in that world. Little things that we take for granted can mean everything to them.
One example, one of Moonee's friends had a birthday. Halley hitchhikes with them to a parking lot at a hotel near Disney, where they put out a picnic blanket and share a pack of Little Debbies and watch the Disneyland fireworks. How many times have I gotten annoyed at the fireworks crowds at Disneyland, as I'm trying to run to some other attraction? That display that I've casually rejected so many times means everything to these kids.
I normally don't tend to enjoy movies that don't have solid plotlines, but I was so invested in these kids and their stories. The kids felt so real and unscripted. They weren't glamorized or put thru some Hollywood sanitization. They were kids just like you'd see on the street. I was also invested because these aren't stories you hear, another thing that pains me to realize. There are kids living like this all over the country and nobody talks about it. Their stories seemed to fresh to me that I couldn't help but be absorbed.
On a lighter note, the film also featured Willem DaFoe playing against his established type. As I joked on Stardust just before the timer cut me off, he was more Willem DaFriend, which is a side we rarely see of him on film. He was the sympathetic manager of the hotel, and represented a lot of the emotions that the audience was feeling. I'm hearing awards buzz, and though it's too soon to call, I'd say he's very deserving.
Anyways, if you can see this film, please do. Not just because of the awards potential, but because the story of these kids deserves to be heard. It's an emotional experience unlike anything I've felt at the movies in a long time.
The Florida Project – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/