The Florida Project

The Florida Project ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I've been saving this for the right occasion because I knew exactly what it would do to me.

Ever since leaving college and removing myself from the anesthetized world of academic film discourse, I've been thinking a lot about what makes movies feel truly, spiritually important to me, rather than just aesthetically pleasing or clever with their craft. What are the qualities that satisfy that personal, religious connection to art? That answer still isn't clear to me, and a swirl of gooey abstracts like "empathy" and "earnestness" don't feel satisfying enough to fully describe it. But I do know that whatever that necessary quality is, whatever takes the act of recording and transmutes it into an act of communion - Sean Baker's films have that quality.

There's such an intimate realness and care for the time and place of his movies. It feels perverse to call the people in front of the camera characters, profane to refer to the goings-on that surrounds them as plot. But it would be equally ridiculous to call Baker a realist, or to claim that what he presents is nude, objectivist truth. It's reality with a spark, a motel coronated by a rainbow, a last minute escape to Disneyland stomping through warm puddles and hot pavement.

I don't like my habit of intellectualizing a movie that I feel so deeply connected to but I can't help myself. I want to find a pattern, I want ALL art to feel as meaningful and lasting and reflective as this. It's deeply human and yet it's so much more. It invites a special kind of empathy that is actually harder to extend to real people in real life. It makes me want to extend more empathy to real people in real life. It's a way of seeing that is just full of curiosity and appreciation and humor and understanding. I wouldn't say I want to live in this movie, but I want to borrow its eyes.

So yeah. This is the kind of movie that feels important to me, not in a moralistic or historical sense, but in an intimate and existential one. I don't mean to lavish any one filmmaker with deifying praise. I think it's wrong to attribute supernatural prescience to artists who are really just humans like you and me. But seriously, Sean Baker, make more movies. You're really fucking good at it and you make my soul feel good.

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