SPOILER ALERT: Before you read about how relatable this movie was to me, go watch the movie! I do NOT want to ruin it for you. If you’ve already watched the Florida Project, then read on.
THere’s everything that made the movie so real to me, which includes my lingering reaction to the ending. The movie was so relatable that it compelled me to write my first movie review and made me get my feelings out on “paper”.
Background: Just in case you didn’t know, both my parents died by the time I was 10 from cancer. I grew up with my brother and sister, only 18 and 14 at the time. Yah, an 18-year-old, 14-year-old, and 10-year old– all missing their parents– in one house and trying to pay the bills on our own; it wasn’t fun.
Relatability From My Past
Kids being kids
For the first half of the movie, I couldn’t help laugh at every scene of Moonee, Scooty, and Jancey just being kids. Their spur-of-the-moment adventures and carefree attitude– it brought me back to childhood when everything made sense, and at the same time, didn’t matter at all.
It was all pure innocence and absurdity, and the carefully chosen details of the kids’ daily jaunts brought me back to the days when my friends and I would run around without thought about what’s next or how we would make it happen. It would work out, and in the end, we’d get what we wanted whether we had planned for it or not. Isn’t this something that all, if not most, of us can relate to?
Moonee shuts down in front of the DA
As the movie shifted from the innocence of children to the hard existence adults live in, the reality hit my heart deep and touched a wound that hadn’t been opened in awhile, especially when Moonee wrapped her arms around her knees unwilling to answer the DA’s questions.
With my friends too, I clowned around loudly, but when it came to the forced visits with social workers and school psychologists, I was a mute. There were many times when I’d step into the school psychologist’s office and sit there for half an hour in silence as she asked me questions like “How are things at home?” or “Are you depressed?” I’d curl in just like Moonee and mumble one word answers.
Ashley gets scared and yells at Scooty
I know a lot of my friends have done stupid things growing up. You know, things kids do in the suburbs to fill their spare time– light fireworks in their neighbors’ mailboxes, light fires in the woods, and ding dong ditch. In my case, I’d go to the mall and steal; partially because I wanted stuff, but mostly because my friends were doing it, and we thought it was fun…until the day I got arrested.
At the town jail, I laid around an empty room for who knows how long. My friend had already been picked up by her dad whereas no one was at my house to pick up the phone or even wondering where I was.
Eventually my brother came to pick me up because my friend’s dad had went to my house to tell my brother or sister of the news. He was livid, but as I got older, I knew that it wasn’t all anger. A lot of it was fear– fear that the state would take me away because they’d view him as an unfit person to live with.
I imagine my brother was going through a lot of the same emotions that Ashley did while she was yelling at Scooty.
Moonee knows something is wrong but not really
There’s countless times that Moonee knows something is wrong but doesn’t know the whole picture because she’s a child. As much of a mess Halley is, she tries her best to shield Moonee from the restrictions and formalities of the adult world. But towards the end when the DA shows up with the cops, there’s no hiding it. She absolutely knows something is wrong yet no one will outright tell her until Scooty lets it slip.
On the day my mom died, her friend was visiting her. I was in my room drawing a picture when I heard commotion in the living room. My mother had gotten so sick that her friend had to call the ambulance. I was told to stay in my room. I felt sadness inside and I could tell something was wrong, but no one told me what was going on so I just did as I was told. I stayed in my room and continued to draw.
When the ambulance came, I looked out the window and saw them take my mom away in a stretcher. Then some time later, my brother and sister pulled up in the driveway as they were called back from NYC. My mother’s friend was talking to them outside, and I saw the distressed look on their face.
I knew something was wrong, but no one told me what was going on ’cause that’s what adults do with children. They try to shield them, but still, children know.
I went to college in Orlando, and the depiction of it in the Florida Project wasn’t your usual frolics through the Disney Parks. It wasn’t made over or beautified. It was truly how it is in real life, and of course, I laughed about it.
The sky, the 6-10 lane roads, the crab grass, the run down motels, the down pouring of rain midday, the beautiful Spanish moss hanging low from trees– it brought me back to a place I hadn’t thought of in years. Every detail of Florida was as if it hadn’t changed since I graduated from school almost a decade ago.
My Reaction to the Ending
When Moonee started fighting the DA about not wanting to go to another family, it hit home. I, too, had scares about having to go live in other peoples’ homes away from my brother and sister, the only family I had left. That’s when the tears started to trickle into my eyes.
Then when Moonee ran to Jancey and started crying, the waterworks began. The sadness of this complex situation started sinking deep into my heart and even into my gut as the girls ran and ran to Disney. When the movie cut into the credits with no sound, I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that it was just a movie. But I couldn’t.
I cried and cried, and if I weren’t in public, I would’ve sat there for at least 15 minutes soaking in everything that had happened. It was so real that it seemed to stick in every bone of my body.
Mike and I couldn’t stop talking about every aspect of the movie from how easily a pedophile could slip into a child’s life to the tangled mess of Halley’s love she had for Moonee. The movie seemed to settle in deeper even after it was over, and it broke open some old wounds.
At home, I cried on and off for about half an hour– talking with Mike about the memories that the movie resurfaced and laughing about the humor sprinkled throughout it– and here I am a couple hours later writing my first movie review.
I can tell this movie’s going to stick with me for awhile just like Moonlight did, which I still think about even though I watched it in 2016. I actually thought about it two days ago while cooking and also have thought about it while taking baths ’cause that’s what a good movie does to me– it hits home and tugs at every corner of my emotions, sometimes hitting it deep into old wounds.
Bonus Amsterdam Expat Perspective
I found the scene of the overweight, disabled man rolling by the orange juice store in his electric scooter to be hilarious. Not because of what it is at face value, something unique to Orlando, but because of the irony of it from a Dutch perspective.
Seeing a disabled person riding around local neighborhoods in Amsterdam in their electric scooter is actually not uncommon because of the bike paths, which make it so accessible for anyone to get around. It’s actually kind of awesome that the young and old, healthy and disabled all use the bike lanes to move around the city easily.
In addition, there’s fresh orange juice everywhere in Amsterdam. So that scene made me think, “Perhaps the Dutch might not find this scene as funny as Americans would.”
I don’t know how many times I used the word “real” in my review, but that’s the best word I can think of to describe this movie, even the Machine Gun America Shooting Range. Yep, it’s all very real.
If you’ve made it down this far, I thank you. This wasn’t easy for me to put out on the web. But now it is, and I don’t plan on taking it back.
Thanks again, xo.
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