I’ve lived in Central Florida for 7 years. When I travel home I’m often asked “How often do you go to the Beach?” or people say “Damn, must be nice living next to Disney World.” And it is… if you can experience those things.
Central Florida may perhaps be the tourist capital of the world. But whether it’s Paramore, Pine Hills, or around the edges of OBT – this place isn’t the fairytale that Floridian politicians and advertisers are selling.
Hearing about The Florida Project was borderline euphoric for me. Such an important, cultural topic being created by the same filmmaker who just came off of Tangerine – also one of the most important films of this decade.
I saw The Florida Project at the Enzian Theatre just before its wide release. The Enzian (about 2 blocks from where I live), was packed daily upon the release of this film. Hosting actor Q&As and mounting a food drive to benefit Central Florida poverty.
It took me a few weeks to beat the crowds regardless of living next door – my wife and I trying to weasel our way in with our Moviepasses. With Moviepass you had to buy your tickets at least an hour before showtime and it was just too crowded; being the only theater in Central Florida playing the film in its limited release.
Finally, we made it happen and as expected – the movie was wonderful.
The Enzian Theatre preceded the film with some statistics about Central Florida poverty that were alarming. One particular stat stood out – 1/17 children in Central Florida are homeless.
It’s one of those obscene stats that makes your jaw drop to the floor.
The Enzian Theatre rests on the border of Winter Park and Maitland on the outskirts of Orlando. Living in Maitland – my wife, myself, and our two dogs rent a triplex and we often joke that we have the cheapest place in the richest neighborhood.
This is an important detail because there are a lot of rich, high-class people in this part of town. The Florida Project being seen by the poor is much less important than being seen by the rich. Wealthy people can get caught up in their own bubble – hell so can the middle-class.
Unfortunately I sat next to a guy who didn’t get it. Making loud, obnoxious comments throughout the film about how the mother should’ve “just got a job” or that the ending didn’t make since – the nuances lost on him.
I know this isn’t a conventional review; I’m so many paragraphs deep and haven’t mentioned much of the film’s actual content. That’s only because I felt it was more important to talk about our societies cognitive dissonance.
So real quick: The film is amazing on all facets. Acting, writing, cinematography – and it gets it absolutely right. Sean Baker is a director who just gets it. He’s not living in the Hollywood bubble consistently producing films about the woes of Los Angeles life. He realizes that our media doesn’t reflect the perspectives of the poor – a class that increases in our country every day.
The man next to me would say this film didn’t make sense. He’d question the mothers motives and blame her for everything and the mystical ending will forever be lost on him.
That’s because this reality doesn’t exist to him. He believes the mother should’ve been able to just walk into a $50k job, mental illness and all. Unfortunately there will always be people like this. People who had so much luck throughout their childhood, their snippets of hard work inflating their ego till they believe that they built everything from the ground-up.
The reality is this film. I was taken to Disney World when I was a young boy, I was given food and clothing, I had two parents who never divorced, and most importantly I was a straight white male. I worked hard for my achievements, but that’s only part of why I am where I am today.
It is important that we all, middle-class and rich, realize this as a universal truth so we can use our head-starts to build a better world.