I typically tend to find Indie films to be a mixed bag. I almost always find something I love in each of them, but I almost always end up finding something I hate as well.
The Florida Project did not break either of these trends.
Here’s a summary in 20 words or less:
The story follows a handful of poor, trashy people in Florida, but primarily focuses on a 6-year-old girl.
The choice to follow the life of the little girl was very interesting. The movie ends up painting a picture of children that are rarely ever supervised and thus are exposed to things very few children are ever exposed to. The result leads to many instances that were humorous, shocking, and sometimes even disturbing.
All of the children do fine in their roles. Except for one, and only one scene, none of the children are expected to show any sort of emotionality outside of “goofy” or “bored”, but regardless, they end up all doing fine.
Everyone else is good in the movie too, and the film is not without its unlikable characters. Some of the people in this film are garbage human beings, and some of them are noble despite all odds. Regardless, it was extremely enjoyable watching every single character.
Willem Dafoe in particular is extremely layered. There is so much that is unspoken about his character. He was by far the most interesting and sympathetic character out of everyone, and nearly all the best scenes involved him.
The film has less of a linear narrative and more of a scattering of various events. They’re all interwoven lightly through a developing story, but the plot is not structured like a classical narrative. And while this can sometimes annoy me, The Florida Project was meaningful in how each scene was constructed.
But that was sort of the point of this film: the character’s lives were so crazily inconsistent and difficult that most of these people struggled to get through the day. You can’t make a classical narrative with that; these people are trying so hard to just live normal lives that it ended up making an interesting movie anyway.
The camera work was well beyond par, and those who know how hard it is to shoot scenes that require specific times during the day will find a lot of appreciation for this film. I was often impressed with just how much effort was put into specific shots.
The soundtrack, which was as trashy as many of the characters in this film, was very fitting, and it set a very specific tone.
Now even though I enjoyed this film, and I appreciated just how truthful and sincere they were being about their source material, I was still looking for a reason as to why all of this felt like it needed to be a story. Despite the fact that I didn’t necessarily find one, I still found a lot to be enjoyed and a lot that could be given to interpretation…
…Unfortunately, all of that changed during the ending. I honestly could not have picked a worse ending for this film if I tried. The ending was so astonishingly bad that as the film finally ended, I found it very hard to get out of my seat because of how angry I was.
There were four other people in this movie. The two women to my left laughed to each other about the ending, shook their head, and left disgusted. The older couple were just as baffled as I was and took just as long to get out of their seats.
The ending seems so detached from the rest of the movie. It doesn’t fit with the tone of the film, it doesn’t fit with any conceivable themes, and the music chosen doesn’t fit with the soundtrack.
And here I was, waiting for the movie to say something profound, something that would make me love this movie, and then it threw me this pile of empty horse crap, and all I could think was “THAT’S IT????”
So aside from a garbage ending, this film is a real treat to watch. It was funny, entertaining, uncomfortable, sad, and occasionally endearing. I would not call it a work of art or an enthralling masterpiece of a narrative, but for what it was, I really enjoyed it. If it wasn’t for the ending, I probably would have considered putting this movie on the bottom rung of my Best of 2017 list.
I still recommend this movie, though. It definitely sheds a light on human brokenness even if it doesn’t have much to say about it. And honestly, there are friends of mine that saw the movie and thought the ending was great.
I honestly don’t know what they were smoking when they watched it… but whatever it was, I want a puff.