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The Florida Project: The Importance of Perspective in Film making

By: Nick Smaldone

An important film in making you might have missed this year does not take place in the stereotypical settings its fellow Oscar-contenders might share: It does not follow the enchanting lives of young Italian lovers, the stresses of a world at war, nor the relatable yet angsty life of a teenage girl. The Florida Project takes place in the happiest place on earth- well, just outside of it.

The Florida Project follows the life of six-year-old girl Moonee one summer and her adventures living in budget motel just outside of Disney World. While Disney World is just an imagined paradise to Moonee and her mother outside their tiny room they call home, Moonee and her friends are able to create enough fun for an entire motel.

Young Moonee does understand the situation she is in, and at times it might appear her young unruly mother does not either. However, Moonee’s innocence adds a new layer of joy to a film that would otherwise be a depressing look at modern day american poverty. Watching Moonee navigate her life is as joyous and uplighting as it is heartbreaking and tragic.

In Westborough, many people have made the exodus down south to seek warmer weather and magic kingdoms during school vacations. However, those who go probably rarely think of people living just outside the theme park gates, the less fortunate people in the shadow of our favorite vacation spots. This film innovatively brings the forgotten and overlooked ‘hidden homeless’ to the front and center of Hollywood.

With all these factors, the film would still not be what it is without the direction of Sean Baker. Baker was brought to fame after his 2015 film Tangerine about two black transgender friends in L.A. Since then he has not strayed from his unique humanist films. Constant wide shots of the colorful landscapes and vast sky truly convey the sense of childhood, where everything seems so big and extreme. Even the most pivotal and serious scenes in the film are filmed from the child’s perspective with tall heads out of shot.

What the film takes the most advantage of is the idea of a flawed hero. The hotel manager, played by Willem Dafoe, tries his best to watch over the customers in his motel while still making a living for himself. Even though you cringe at Moonee’s mother Hallee for doing things such as smoking weed with her daughter in the room, her efforts to make her daughters life fun and carefree are ever present throughout the film.

With all these elements the film is shaping up to one of the most enduring stories of 2017. With the film comes an amount of realism hardly seen before in Hollywood. The characters are not glorified in any way and the dedication to a childlike perspective gives the viewer a new perspective on the lives of people they never have known existed. A feeling of absolute empathy and respect is evoked by the end of the film for these families that exist across America.

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