Florida Project, A masterpiece we all ignored

Disney World is unquestionably considered by most to be “the happiest place on earth.” Sitting in the heart of Orlando, Florida; the amusement park is seen as a temporary escape for families as they embark on a journey filled with childlike innocence and adventure, while the Magic Kingdom serves as a “safe place” for children yearning to be the princesses, princes or superheroes they idolize and see on screen. It’s safe to say that the amusement park has rightfully earned its title of “the happiest place on earth.” Outside of the Magic Kingdom, however, there’s something less pretty than the colorful allure that pervades the streets of Disney World. Just 23 minutes south of the park is a town called Kissimmee, which looks surprisingly different from the park that is miles away. To paint a more depressing picture of the difference between the park and the city of Kissimmee, the average Disney World family blithely spends hundreds of dollars on tickets, fast passes, and merchandise for their child just to make them happy, while the middle, lower-class family living in Kissimmee tries to figure out how they’re going to pay for their next meal. There’s a dark form of on-screen irony when you realize a world of poverty is right on the doorstep of “the happiest place on earth”, and this film portrays the effects of poverty better than everything I’ve ever seen.

The sheer realism on display is the definition of weird and it almost feels like a documentary rather than something pre-written. The atmosphere given off by the film was incredibly captivating and was only enhanced by the superb direction of Sean Baker. The setting of this movie is grimy, ramshackle, low-class, and inches from the edge of all the greatness life has to offer, but it still manages to feel beautiful rather than come across as dispiriting poverty porn. Even though it’s set in a place of ultimate desperation, the darkness of it is perfectly juxtaposed with dreamy color palettes and shots that make you feel an abundance of childhood innocence. Beneath all the darkness exposed, I still get the message that a perfect life isn’t always out of reach.

This is a film that deserves to be seen by everyone. Along with showcasing the beautiful aspects of childhood innocence, it also accurately portrays how ugly and brutal the state of poverty can be for some people. It is very disheartening to realize that there are families trying to survive in places like these, while other families live better lives and never have to worry about being in such dire financial situations. It does a great job of showing the children’s perspective as the adults in their lives struggle to make ends meet, contrary to the realization that parents spend so much money on their children in “the happiest place in the world” minutes from a city plagued by poverty. It’s a film that immediately draws you in and keeps tugging at your heartstrings. It never misses a beat to portray the darkness of those living below the poverty line and the more sinister acts some commit in order to put food on the table for those they provide. I can say with confidence that it immediately became one of my all-time favorite movies after watching it and it’s something that will always stay with me. Can’t recommend it enough

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Naveen Navodya

Naveen Navodya

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