Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Florida Project (and Good Time)

Kodak put a listicle on their site last week describing the best cities to see movies on film, and Boston was #3 behind New York and L.A., which have the distinct advantages of being huge cities with large chunks of the entertainment industry to cater to. We will, however, come out for film and consider it valuable, which explains a big chunk of how Friday night's shows at the Brattle either sold out or came darn close - folks knew that seeing something recent like Good Time on 35mm was a big deal, even if they maybe hadn't been drawn to it during the regular engagement last year. The place was a little overwhelmed.

Of course, a lot of that had to do with The Florida Project, too - not a lot of people bailed after Good Time, and I gather the 5pm show was more people than they expected as well. I suspect it's getting a little more of a second wind than many films do during awards season, in no small part due to how its very young star is showing up at ceremonies and being an adorable seven-year-old. With so many things given out, with attendant distractions, and an ever-more-cynical group of people consuming entertainment news, Brooklynn Prince surely gets one to notice that this film is different than most everything else out there.

They make a good double feature, too - both films that draw the audience into a desperate situation without engendering too much sympathy, using a lot of folks who are either non-professionals or just getting their first jobs in front of the camera, and seeming to just let a story shake out. It can be a lot of that for one night, but both sets of filmmakers do it so well that it winds up very impressive indeed.

Good Time

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen on 12 January 2018 in the Brattle Theatre [(Some of) The Best of 2017, 35mm]

I'm not quite sure how much the the different circumstances of seeing Good Time affected my enjoyment of it - Fantasia surprised me with a twistier, more grind-house-y movie than I expected, and also followed it up with a terrific Q&A from the directors. Here, I knew what I was getting and didn't have the same sort of decompression and discussion afterward, it became a thing I did to kill time before The Florida Project to an extent. It's a tough thing to experience a second time with the same excitement as that first viewing.

Still… It's pretty darn good, and seeing a nice 35mm print up close rather than a DCP from way the heck up in seats that feel like the back of the balcony certainly improves part of the experience. The Safdies made a movie that oozes desperation and bad decision-making, and maybe seeing that as leading to inevitable downfalls makes one less enthused even if it's still chock full of good bits.

Original review on EFC (from August)

The Florida Project

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen on 12 January 2018 in the Brattle Theatre [(Some of) The Best of 2017, DCP]

The last few scenes of The Florida Project aren't quite completely different from the rest of the movie, but writer/director/editor Sean Baker bookends what is arguably the film's most simply devastating moment with shots that feel show the filmmakers' hands in a way the rest of the movie doesn't. It's an odd choice, but an understandable one - how do you end a movie that buries its structure so far under its surface? - and certainly not one that undercuts what an unusual experience this movie is.

It's told from the perspective of Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), a six-year-old girl who lives with her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) in a Kissimmee motel, spending most of her time running around the area getting into mischief with her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Dicky, making a new one in Jancey (Valeria Cotto) while being punished for their last bit of troublemaking. It's not quite idyllic even if Moonee can't really see how Halley's position is getting more precarious by the week, but the motel's manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) looks out for them as much as he can without being an actual babysitter.

It must be somewhat terrifying for a filmmaker to place so much of a film in the hands of someone as young as Brooklynn Prince, and equally as easy for outsiders to second-guess it, speculating that as a result the film must be all improvisation, or that it's a case of perfect casting rather than actual talent. Whatever the case may be here, though, Prince is a joy to watch, contributing a boisterous energy level that certainly comes off as authentic from how Moonee doesn't quite know which words she's going to emphasize until they're out of her mouth or how she runs like she's throwing herself at something. Moonee blurts things out without ever sounding like she's doing it for effect - Prince is probably not so potty-mouthed in real life, but she certainly makes one believe that she's Halley's daughter.

Full review at EFC

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