I️ really didn’t know what to expect when I️ decided to go see The Florida Project. The film’s description sounded a bit tedious to me, but it happened to be playing during the window of time I️ was free to see something, and it had the best Rotten Tomatoes score of any of the films at the nearby theater. I️ went.
I️ was pleasantly surprised.
The title of the film begins the intrigue: The Florida Project. The film’s name was the working name for Disney’s Orlando, Florida, Magic Kingdom when that Disney project was being developed. And the film ends with a scene filmed in the Magic Kingdom (interestingly, purportedly without Disney’s knowledge or consent).
The movie is a bit of an intense glimpse into some ugly truths about life in the United States of America—the growing permanence of an economically depressed and largely hidden underclass. Shot in Kissimmee, Florida, on the outskirts of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the film silently juxtaposes the disadvantaged living invisibly next to those of some privilege and means. As such, at times the movie is uncomfortable, a sad, plodding exposé of invisible people seeking to just get by against a backdrop of affluence and artifice.
At the same time, the bliss and naïveté of young childhood rambles throughout, loosely detached from their adult’s neglected responsibilities and languid lives lived below any potential of real hope. The adults are Just. Barely. Getting. By. Meanwhile, unsupervised, unparented childhood simply adapts as young children do.
At the end, as American societal norms tries to intervene for the sake of a child’s well-being and as payback from another character, things go oddly sideways but not in any of the ways one might expect. Two of the children make a run for it and manage somehow to get into the Magic Kingdom as they run toward the castle itself.
What a huge comment on meaningless American values, on empty family values, on failed religious efforts to offer valid solutions, and on hollow American life. And, brilliantly, the running commentary is completely silent. The tragedy. The irony. The emptiness. Entitled or impoverished, today’s American life is shown as just devoid of real, substantive value.
The film is well done. The acting is excellent, especially the children. The story is a rare glimpse at reality. The silent commentary should make us think. And for all we hear about how great this country is, this movie should be a wake up call. Time to reassess.