The Florida Project

The Florida Project ★★★★★

I remember it was about a year ago that I watched a short HBO documentary by Alexandra Pelosi called, "Homeless". To this day it remains rather obscure to say the least, but its subject matter found itself entrenched within my mind ever since. Spotlighting the ultra-low income families who inhabit the squalor motels sitting right behind Disneyland. An shockingly ironic position, even for today's surplus of nihilistic cynicism. Usually housing families of up to 6 living in the same 1 living room, 1 bathroom space, using sleeping bags and posters to signify each other's "rooms". Though it seems unforgiving to the unfamiliar viewer, it's anything but to the tenants, as they have made the very best of it. It's a reality I've never stopped thinking about ever since, although I'd never seen another attempt to feature such an interesting section of alternative living. Then, master auteur Sean Baker announced his next "project".

The Florida Project is the first fully accessible narrative feature regarding this very set up. Focusing primarily on the children who're directly effected and apart of this uncommon standard, the indie tale showcases nearly every quirk, daily ritual & tribulation this nontraditional situation would surely bare. Starring a fleet of miraculous newcomers(specifically an Oscar worthy 6 years old & an instantly classic maternal figure scouted from Instagram of all casting sources)alongside an incredibly endearing Willem Dafoe, Baker's study of making the best of an troubled existence tends to indirectly challenge the status quo of the casual suburban lifestyle. At no point in the feature do we venue far enough out of this realm to visit the homesteads of, for lack of a less lazy term, normality. These happy-go-lucky protagonists are anything but preoccupied with philosophizing their current status nor longing for the elusive picket fence of white. Not even close, as they'd rather focus on where their next soft serve ice cream cone will materialize from next. A question who's response that could just as easily return in the form of emotional cataclysm.

To better describe such a statement, this is a film far less about survival than it is about the bliss born out of ignorance most innocent. A sincere narrative that follows a cast of colorful players through such a fruitless void of recessive animation that it begins to feel like T.E. Lawrence's own vast desert when experience through the perspective of the utmost rambunctious child. The escapades we witness are most mundane and unsubstantial, yet it's the personalities and how said vibrant souls react to such that makes these events such powerful feats in retrospect. From the false threat of eviction, to the much more real threat of child-predators, when seen through eyes of such cynical and desensitized free-spirits, you sometimes forget along with them just how crucial every small decision they make truly is. This is tenfold once the adult's own story line is fore-fronted, as the contrast between real struggle & wondrous anarchy put a lifetime's worth of contrast into perspective. The question of what leaps must be taken to support one's own family is asked in such a resoundingly urgent manner that those who do not sympathize with our subjects by the film's final act simply have not been listen to the story told.

We've all been children, but for the very most part, not like this. It's a path less traveled in the generally pampered lives the majority of generation Y has lived through. One that is invaluable for all walks of life to examine, as it's one that promises no end nor adjustments to those directly exposed. We've all experienced the confines of theme park magic & the wonder of well-produced childhood based programming. But if I were to announce that to a wide enough demographic, I'd easily be caught having made a tragically incorrect assumption. This is a film that makes you feel for another as it distracts you from how moving it truly is from how incredibly entertaining & amusing its tiny characters are. They don't dream of greater pastures because to them, the world doesn't come equipped. And after all, why fret over what doesn't exist in the first, right? This god send of a picture deserves only the highest form of regard. One that I will never shy away from providing, for whatever my opinion is actually worth. If it's worth even half as much as these character's spirits have us thinking so, then I'm positive that I'm safe in that regard.

- The Spork Guy

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