Things I’m Thankful For, Only One Of Which (A Movie) Is Real

After the Thanksgiving affair that my wife Sandy and I hosted last week, I really am feeling thankful. Thankful that the big day is over and that (hopefully) I won’t see the guests again for a long time. Never again would be ideal.

What with most of our family scattered around the world, far from our suburban Philadelphia home, and what with our friends chowing down elsewhere, Sandy and I, as usual, were reduced to inviting only the three cousins who live near us — Tom, Dick and Larry — to sit around our dining room table on Turkey Day.

Tom, Dick and Larry are from my side of the family. I never can keep straight precisely how they are related to me. Third cousins twice removed. Or second cousins thrice removed. Something like that. Whatever the blood connections may be, several things are definite: These guys are suspicious characters, unmarried and without girlfriends, and never receive Thanksgiving invites from anyone else. I won’t delve deeply into describing how thoroughly they distressed me last week. Let’s just say that after Tom glared at me 20 minutes into the meal and hissed “pass the gravy . . . or else,” I came this close to soiling my Mickey Mouse-emblazoned boxer shorts. Holy crap, I’m very thankful that didn’t happen! One painful hour later the meal was over and five minutes after that the boys were on their way home. Unsafe travels in the future, fellas.

Now, I pride myself on being not too concerned about lucid juxtapositions. One of these days maybe I’ll set aside my wobbly ways, but that day hasn’t arrived just yet. Which is why I, without embarrassment, now turn away from a Thanksgiving fantasia and toward something entirely unrelated. Its name is The Florida Project. It’s a movie, one that I thought only relative handfuls of people were visiting the theaters to see. But I was wrong about that. A quick look at Box Office Mojo reveals that TFP is in a substantial number of cinemas in the States. It deserves to be. The Florida Project is superb, a piercing examination of human plight. I caught it a couple of weeks ago, am thankful that I did, and can’t get it out of my head.

The Florida Project, though scripted, has the feel of cinema verite. Episodic, it follows the lives, day after day during one summer, of several young kids and their parents who call the Magic Castle motel home. The motel is in Orlando, Florida, close to Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park, but for many of Magic Castle’s residents it might as well be a million miles from that pricey wonderland. That’s because the Magic Castle, where a room may be had for under $40 a day, is loaded with those near the bottom of the economic ladder — folks with low-paying jobs, hustlers and pensioners who are barely getting by, and transients on their way to who knows where.

Moonee, a smart, playful and happy six-year-old girl, has been living in the Magic Castle for quite a while with her single mom, Halley, an angry and majestically-tattooed 20-something who, clearly and unfortunately, never has been part of the mainstream and won’t be joining it soon. Money comes to Halley in various ways, mostly by scheming, and its flow is erratic and unplentiful. Life’s been a bitch for her, as her white-hot temper shows, but the temper never is directed towards her daughter. Moonee is the apple of Halley’s eye, the wondrous creature who can do no wrong, the one person on Earth she loves unconditionally.

The Florida Project is filmed in colors that blaze with brilliance. I think the director, Sean Baker, chose this somewhat jarring motif to demonstrate the way in which Moonee views her surroundings. To her they are an adventureland meant to be savored and explored. And explore it she does with her pals Scooty and Jancey — the fields close to the motel, the ice cream stand where they twist the arms of customers to buy them cones, abandoned buildings that sit under the Sun peacefully and half-forgotten.

At first, none of this seems like much. But the cumulative effect of the seemingly ordinary soon becomes powerful, as Baker paints the children and their parents with unadulterated strokes. The characters are real, vividly real, and totally believable. I’m still hearing Moonee’s glee-infused voice, which provides one of the soundtracks to the film. It’s been a year since I saw a movie, Moonlight being the last, that rang as true as this one.

Well, as they pile up it becomes apparent halfway through the movie that the details within The Florida Project are not a collection of random observations and occurrences. The plot is headed in a definite direction. And it would be most unfair of me to give away the final destination. I will say, though, that anyone whose heart is not composed of stone better be prepared to have it wrenched.

Performance-wise, what can you say about Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite, who portray Moonee and Halley, respectively? Brilliant jobs, young ladies. Utterly brilliant. And Willem Dafoe? He’s the sole actor I was familiar with in the film. His handling of Bobby, the motel manager whose job requires him to put out metaphorical fires right and left, and who keeps a watchful eye out for dangers that might be heading for the children, is understatedly strong.

Sean Baker, who also co-wrote The Florida Project, is yet another I never knew about previously. Maybe I should have been aware of the sitcoms he helped create a few years ago, Greg The Bunny and Warren The Ape. But I wasn’t and am not.

In any event, somebody waved a magic wand over Baker’s head some time ago when he began thinking about the ideas he wanted to get across in The Florida Project and how they might take shape. The magic wand worked.

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this article. I thank you.)

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40 thoughts on “Things I’m Thankful For, Only One Of Which (A Movie) Is Real

  1. alhenry November 28, 2017 / 12:18 am

    After I got done laughing hysterically over your Thanksgiving dinner with “relatives,” I enjoyed your review of “The Florida Project.” It might just get me out from behind this laptop and off to my local indie cinema. All I can add is that I hope Tom, Dick, and Larry haven’t booked your dining room table for the upcoming holidays.Maybe it’s not too late to book a late December vacation in the Bahamas.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 28, 2017 / 12:07 pm

      Hello there. Thanks for dropping by.
      It’ll probably be in theaters for a few more weeks. After that, Netflix etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. joyce hamilton November 28, 2017 / 8:00 am

    If it is true sorry your Thanksgiving is so horrible. I will check out the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. S. A. Young November 28, 2017 / 8:52 am

    The Florida Project is definitely on my list (and one I expect to make most critics’ end of year “Top_” lists). Most of the reviews I’ve read have been glowing, though not all as eloquently written as yours. Thanks for sharing (and sorry about your jerk cousins.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Debra November 28, 2017 / 11:28 am

    Yes, we highly recommend The Florida Project also. You might want to check out the director’s other film, Tangerine (amazingly shot entirely on an iPhone).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. andrewcferguson November 28, 2017 / 2:22 pm

    You made me glad Thanksgiving is one Americanism we haven’t succumbed to yet, Neil (although Black Friday is). And thanks for the movie tip – will follow that up!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ann Coleman November 28, 2017 / 9:04 pm

    I’m also very glad that Thanksgiving is over. And I will look for the Florida Project. It sounds like a movie that I would enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 28, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      Hi Ann. I appreciate your stopping by.
      TFP is one of those movies that really made a strong impression with me. Moonlight also did. And the movie called Room, which came out two or three years ago — that’s a great one.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Alyson November 29, 2017 / 3:38 am

    Sounds as if you should have got your old buddies Keith R and Bruce S round for Thanksgiving instead!?

    Will look out for the movie though – Sounds as if it made a real impact.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 29, 2017 / 8:29 am

      Right, Bruce and Keith would be excellent guests. I’ll keep that in mind for the future.

      Like

  8. betunada November 29, 2017 / 10:56 am

    our t-giving/taking was just us (2) deriving 3-some hours to be the only guests of our son & his girlfriend. Betty is a bit dismayed that HE seemingly isn’t making any effort to ‘advance beyond’ the girlfriend phase.
    other than that — what a hook, your review of the movie, it’s on our list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 29, 2017 / 3:01 pm

      Hello there. Thank you for stopping by.
      You’re going to like The Florida Project.
      See ya’ —

      Neil S.

      Like

  9. selizabryangmailcom November 29, 2017 / 1:53 pm

    1. I assume your cousins don’t like to read. Especially blogs.
    2. I thought at first you were talking about Moonlight with Cher and Nic Cage. I thought, “No way,” and then I found last year’s Moonlight.
    3. The Florida Project sounds interesting. And sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 29, 2017 / 3:05 pm

      Hi Seliza.
      Tom, Dick and Larry CAN’T read. And yet they graduated from high school. Oh well . . .

      Take care —

      Like

      • selizabryangmailcom November 30, 2017 / 12:55 pm

        Haha. Btw, Cher and Nic Cage were in Moonstruck, not Moonlight. I know everyone can sleep a lot better now that I’ve straightened that out. It was so long ago, I’m sure no one even remembers. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. tanjabrittonwriter November 29, 2017 / 2:50 pm

    TFP sounds intriguing, if a bit depressing. I will have to take plenty of tissues.
    I am glad you survived your Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 29, 2017 / 3:08 pm

      Hello there Tanja.
      The movie is a bit of a roller coaster ride, emotionally. You’ll like it. But yes, you might need a few tissues.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Julie Yates November 29, 2017 / 5:52 pm

    Tom, Dick, Larry……ahahaha….didn’t know whether to laugh or cry for you – but the movie sounds interesting….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 29, 2017 / 7:03 pm

      Hello Julie. Thanks a lot for adding your thoughts.

      You know, the Tom. Dick and Larry characters possibly have potential. Maybe they’ll show up in a future story.

      Like

  12. The Artist's Child November 30, 2017 / 6:31 am

    Terrific review. It sounds like a great film. I especially love films that show life from a child’s perspective so this will go on my list. They usually have a lot to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 30, 2017 / 7:42 am

      Hi.
      You’ll love it.
      I just read a review of a new film called Call Me By Your Name. It sounds really good too.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. K E Garland November 30, 2017 / 10:27 am

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Neil! I’ll have to check out the Florida Project, especially since you’ve compared it to Moonlight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 30, 2017 / 11:01 am

      Morning, Kathy.
      Thanksgiving was quite good. I hope yours was too.
      I spent it with a small group of relatives, including a 99-year-old uncle. He’s the oldest person I’ve ever known.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. cincinnatibabyhead December 1, 2017 / 10:56 pm

    again you have got my attention. It blows me away how good some of these “kid” actors are. They don’t know how to be anything but real. I’ll be checking it out for sure. As far as Tom, Dick and Larry go, next time they come over serve them a hot steaming mug of ex-lax cocoa.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. M.P. Baecker December 2, 2017 / 6:59 am

    Your writing makes me smile! 😄I’m sorry about your Thanksgiving! It seems you are doing a great service to invite Tom, Dick and Larry, they don’t seem to be well-socialized and could use the human contact. Tom’s behavior reminded me of a stray dog. Yikes! You’re brave.

    I love your description of the movie “anyone whose heart is not composed of stone better be prepared to have it wrenched.” I will have to prepare myself for this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 2, 2017 / 9:19 am

      Thanks a lot for stopping by, M.P.
      I appreciate it.

      The Florida Project is a very worthy movie. You’ll like it, I’m sure.

      See you —

      Neil

      Like

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 2, 2017 / 10:18 pm

      Evening, Christy.
      Thanks for the visit. Glad you liked the movie review. The Florida Project is a heck of a fine film.
      See you —-

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Laura Morgan December 3, 2017 / 11:33 am

    I love Willem Dafoe, and your more-than-lucid juxtaposition! Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger December 3, 2017 / 12:30 pm

      Hi Laura. Thanks for dropping by. Dafoe is really good in this movie. I think it had been a long time since I’d seen him in anything.

      Take care —

      Neil S.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. pjlazos December 4, 2017 / 2:11 pm

    So excited to see this movie. I’ve heard only good things. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

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