The Florida Project

The Florida Project ★★★★½

When I see a new film of almost universal acclaim, sometimes I go out of my way to read the negative reviews to get a little distance from the zeitgeist. In the case of The Florida Project’s negative reviews, I saw a few patterns:

• the expected backlash against the critical consensus
• the frustration of viewers who prefer more traditional narratives
• locals objecting to the portrayal of Florida
• accusations of poverty porn

One flavor of that last pattern argues that The Florida Project is insufficiently critical of the struggling people it portrays. Indie cinema tends not to attract proponents of callous conservatism, so it’s a surprising opinion, and one that says more about the viewer than the film.

Other poverty porn arguments are more vague, but I guess the idea is either that The Florida Project’s darker moments cynically elicit sympathy via maudlin class warfare clichés, or that its lighter moments somehow trivialize the plight of the poor.

I’m with the zeitgeist on this one. The Florida Project encapsulates the beauty of childhood and the weight of poverty, and offers a unique, funny, devastating, visually stunning window into how they coexist. I wasn’t crazy about the ending, but that was partly because I didn’t want it to end.

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