The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

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felipe
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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#26 Post by felipe » Sat Mar 03, 2018 6:33 pm

movielocke wrote:Oh I was under the impression that father was staying one step ahead of ICE and was hoping to disappear in Texas
But what about the other mother (Haley's friend who worked at the diner)? She was shown as a more responsible parent and she was in a better financial situation than Haley. The movie did give the idea that Haley was in a slightly worse situation than other people living in that motel because of her attitude, wasn't it?

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#27 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:49 am

But her attitude isn’t something that just arrives in a person out of the clear blue sky. It belies a difficult past, and while surely everyone there had some kind of story to tell, it isn’t difficult to imagine that much of Halley’s behavior is the result of some cocktail of mental illness and emotional scars from a terrible childhood.

I agree that we don’t know nearly enough about that father who departs the motel to presuppose that he’s doing any particular thing, moving up or down or laterally in his life. It could be any number of things.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#28 Post by HJackson » Sun Mar 04, 2018 4:23 am

It could be the result of some cocktail of mental illness and emotional scars from a terrible childhood, or it could be the tail-end of a long line of self-inflicted fuck-ups on her part - which would certainly be in line with the dysfunctional way she operates throughout the film. Her already very bad situation unravels in a large part because of her very bad decisions. I don't see why we should pretend that the condition she's in at the start of the film can't also be a product of her own agency in a significant way.

Ultimately her inability to reform her behaviour and take some responsibility, for whatever reason, is a major part of why she and her child are in the state they're in - which, as felipe rightly points out, is bad even relative to the other occupants of the motel. Even movielocke, who seems to see Halley as a victim of failures in the welfare system (and there's an element of that, no doubt) admits that she's a participant in the destruction of her own ad hoc support systems. The extreme shittiness of her life can't, I think, be boiled down to systemtic failure in the welfare system or an imagined past.

But I would assume that your reading is more in line with Sean Baker's intentions. I found it very hard to sympathise with her though and that's why I couldn't really stomach this one. It seemed like a two-hour parade of toxic behaviour that I couldn't extract much of value from.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#29 Post by nitin » Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:07 am

One of the things I really appreciated about this film's tone was how unjudgmental it was of it characters. My own personal take on the Haley character is along the lines of movielocke but I can see (and have quite a with friends who agree with) the felipe/domino viewpoint too.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#30 Post by DarkImbecile » Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:57 am

In any circumstance there are going to be people who are more or less self-destructive, irresponsible, incapable of coping with misfortune, etc., whether because of innate characteristics or environmental/experiential factors. A viewer doesn’t have to completely excuse Halley’s behavior and choices to feel that she should have more supports to prevent whatever failings she has from further harming others, especially her children. The Florida Project deserves credit for not being a Pursuit of Happyness-style story of a virtuous and capable protagonist striving to overcome being beaten down by circumstance and society, instead asking harder questions, like: shouldn’t a mother in the richest country in the world - living in the shadow of a glowing monument to the fantasy of the American dream - be able to feed and house her daughter without resorting to prostitution... even if she’s not a good person?

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#31 Post by Brian C » Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:21 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:The Florida Project deserves credit for not being a Pursuit of Happyness-style story of a virtuous and capable protagonist striving to overcome being beaten down by circumstance and society, instead asking harder questions, like: shouldn’t a mother in the richest country in the world - living in the shadow of a glowing monument to the fantasy of the American dream - be able to feed and house her daughter without resorting to prostitution... even if she’s not a good person?
I don't know how much credit the movie really deserves for this because I don't know that this is actually a hard question. Is there literally anyone who's going to say that a mom should have to resort to prostitution to feed and house her daughter? Of course not.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#32 Post by DarkImbecile » Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:23 pm

Brian C wrote:
DarkImbecile wrote:The Florida Project deserves credit for not being a Pursuit of Happyness-style story of a virtuous and capable protagonist striving to overcome being beaten down by circumstance and society, instead asking harder questions, like: shouldn’t a mother in the richest country in the world - living in the shadow of a glowing monument to the fantasy of the American dream - be able to feed and house her daughter without resorting to prostitution... even if she’s not a good person?
I don't know how much credit the movie really deserves for this because I don't know that this is actually a hard question. Is there literally anyone who's going to say that a mom should have to resort to prostitution to feed and house her daughter? Of course not.
I thought the italics would do it, but maybe my tongue wasn’t firmly enough in my cheek.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#33 Post by Brian C » Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:35 pm

Ok, well, now I'm just confused about what you were trying to say. I took the italics as emphasis, and it doesn't really parse as tongue-in-cheek to me.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#34 Post by domino harvey » Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:45 pm

I saw no evidence in the film that this character should be allowed to raise a daughter. I don't really understand what blaming society has to do with it? This is by all available evidence a person who lacks basic parenting skills and does not appear capable of or interested in learning or improving herself for the benefit of her daughter's wellbeing. Why in the world should I have sympathy for her just because she's poor?

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#35 Post by Daneurism » Sun Mar 04, 2018 1:54 pm

Yeah, I didn't read the film as saying that Halley was let down by the system. I think it acknowledges that she's an unfit parent, but it's matter of fact and non judgemental.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#36 Post by Satori » Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:05 pm

While Baker is not giving a direct representation of how Halley was "let down by the system," it certainly seems as if the film wants us to consider the economic and social circumstances surrounding its characters. The film's central spatial conceit is that these hotels are right next to Disney World, inviting us to consider the radically different worlds inhabited by the hotel dwellers and the tourists.
SpoilerShow
This point is reiterated through Halley's encounter with the John whose bracelets she steals.
Since Baker wants us to consider the world from the perspective of the hotel inhabitants (particularly the children), a systemic critique of neoliberalism and the post-welfare state would be completely out of place. These characters don't have the language to make such a critique.

The film is probably something of a political Rorschach test: those on the left will see the film as a depiction of poverty under neoliberalism (as movielocke astutely and comprehensively works through above) while more conservative viewers will just see the film as a damning depiction of personal irresponsibility and bad mothering. The "left" reading doesn't ignore or even forgive Halley's actions, but it places these things in a larger social and economic context. In this reading, the point isn't to condemn Halley, it is to condemn the system that creates Halley.

But the film is not ultimately "about" neoliberalism nor personal moral failing. It presents these characters without judgement, asking the audience to consider them with compassion even when (or especially when) they self-destruct and do things that we might consider morally abhorrent. Of course, the choice to extend them compassion or not is entirely up the audience.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#37 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Mar 04, 2018 3:12 pm

The Halley we see is chewing through any remaining sympathy she may have, of course - but most people who end up that way don’t do so by matter of sheer coincidence and shrugging selfishness. This is someone who has likely been failed by the system long before she wound up here, and long before she had her daughter. The film still makes a strong case for much stronger safety nets for those who don’t have the means or education to help themselves.

Anyway, here is a very good interview with Sean Baker on the subject - please keep in mind it does contain spoilers.
I’m not trying to sway opinion one way or the other because that’s why we made her character flawed. We’re not sanctifying her; we’re making her human.

But I hope audiences will at least be mature enough to be empathetic. If they look at Halley’s situation, she was probably 15 years old when she had Moonee -- no formal education, no family support whatsoever, no father figure for Moonee, so no child support. She’s unemployable. She has a criminal record. So, she’s basically in a place where she has no choice but to turn to the underground economy, and she’s unfortunately a kid who had a kid. She might be street smart, but that’s it. She has no other choices, and she’s never had the opportunity to mature.

As long as people can see this, and then say, "I don’t condone her actions," perhaps "I can’t even comprehend her actions, but I at least understand why she’s been driven to this point," that’s my goal.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#38 Post by Luke M » Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:21 pm

I’m enjoying this dialogue. I think more and more about this film and it’s probably my favorite of the year. There’s something to be said about filmmakers using gritty Floridian backdrops to tell stories of flawed characters.

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The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#39 Post by movielocke » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:35 am

Brian C wrote:
DarkImbecile wrote:The Florida Project deserves credit for not being a Pursuit of Happyness-style story of a virtuous and capable protagonist striving to overcome being beaten down by circumstance and society, instead asking harder questions, like: shouldn’t a mother in the richest country in the world - living in the shadow of a glowing monument to the fantasy of the American dream - be able to feed and house her daughter without resorting to prostitution... even if she’s not a good person?
I don't know how much credit the movie really deserves for this because I don't know that this is actually a hard question. Is there literally anyone who's going to say that a mom should have to resort to prostitution to feed and house her daughter? Of course not.
um, in the United States every republican and most centristy Democrats agree that prostitution would be better than giving someone they don’t like (and who won’t thank them) unconditional cash aid. That’s why we reformed welfare in 97 because poor single mothers providing food, clothing and shelter to their kids was viewed as a bad thing we should stop by forcing those lazy parents to work grueling minimum wage jobs instead (and lets be honest it was a popular program until the 1970s courts struck down all the explicit “whites only”language authorizing welfare, once non white women also began receiving cash aid, support for the program plummeted)

That is the American system: She lost her job therefore she is ineligible for TANF which can only go to people working, or doing unpaid work like activities. Unemployment? Well if she was actually employed, rather than under the table, she is probably classified as a waitress and officially paid $2 per hour, which will be the basis of her unemployment benefits, rather than her (almost certainly unreported) earnings which are based on tips. A $50/week unemployment check doesn’t go very far in 2017. And if the strip clubs wanted to get really above board with the law and save themselves money, they could start forcing dancers to all 1099, now the strip club doesn’t have to pay any withholding contributions to social security etc for their dancers, the dancers have to pay it, and 1099 victims have even less labor protections than the usual American employee, so that’s a plus.

I don’t think she’s a good mother, I think taking the kid out of that situation is good because the child is at serious risk from Johns or prospective pimps (who would eventually force her to stop freelancing.) But I think she does love her daughter, pretty fiercely, and wants to provide for her. And she has largely succeeded for seven-eight years and they are not homeless, she was fairly self sufficient stripping, they necessities met, and even a few nice things: overall a pretty stable life at the motel. But I think while she loves her daughter she also massively resents her daughter and hates her a little and lays a lot of blame for her life on her daughter.

But she’s a short term thinker, she never really acknowledges how on the edge they always are, except when she’s forced to, like one day a month at another motel. To her, the path to losing her daughter wasn’t inevitable escalation. It was just one bad decision a day, day after day after day... and things fall apart.

I’m not even sure she had a lifetime of terrible background and or abuse. Just as likely to me is that she was a fairly normal high school girl, she met a guy, liked the guy, eventually became pregnant (short term thinker again). Which is where things went to hell. Pregnancy can easily cut someone off from the family support networks. Given her short temper and penchant for attack, she probably had pretty shattering fights with her family.

Abortion is incredibly hard to come by, expensive, and requires access to and from the procedure which is harder without a support network and abortion is even harder to access in southern states, and the level of misinformation is very high, as state sponsored support programs are all counseling that are not allowed to discuss termination (which means they only discuss keeping it).

She’s had a rough life, isn’t particularly suited to parenting, but on the other hand, her daughter is all she has, really, her only constant. In many ways her daughter is everything to her, taking her away is a guarantee to make her life so much worse.

To me yes get the daughter out of the situation, but dammit, can’t we do something to get the mother out of the situation too? We used to do what was needed to prevent that situation from developing, but we don’t anymore, so these inevitable negative feedback loops of poverty repeat the same beats millions of times every year.

She is not failed by the system whatsover: she is a standard outcome of the system. She is the system working as intended.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#40 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:03 am

Thanks for the thoughtful post. With you every step of the way on this.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#41 Post by TMDaines » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:23 am

Good post, movielocke.

Can I just confirm something? I don't think the film ever says it explicitly, but the reason why she is forced to vacate her usual room, a picture is taken of it emptied, and she spends a night at a motel across the way is to ensure she cannot potentially get any tenancy rights?

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#42 Post by Ribs » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:25 am

It’s been half a year since I saw it, but I belive Dafoe’s character says explicitly that is the case, that she can’t stay for more than 30 days in a row as that constitutes residency.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#43 Post by TMDaines » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:53 am

Yes, I think I remember "residency" mentioned earlier on in the film to perhaps another character, but I somewhat assumed at that point in the film that the motel just did not want people bedding in and that it was just the motel's policy to not take longer term bookings.

Later on, it becomes clear that lots of people are, for all intents and purposes, residents and that these moving out for a day shenanigans are intended to protect the motel against guests being coy and gaining tenancy rights and using them against the motel to prevent their eviction even if they are behind on rent.

As is clear, I am not familiar with Florida law!

Edit: Here we go: transient versus non-transient occupation. You need to go through court and get an eviction notice, if guests are non-transient and have been staying for more than 30 days. If transient, you can remove them immediately for any reason bar discrimination against certain characteristics, and/or lock them out for any non-payment.
Last edited by TMDaines on Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#44 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:57 am

Yeah, there are squatters' rights (for lack of a more accurate legal term) laws in the U.S. that would make someone rolling over into being a month-to-month tenant subject to further protections like the motel needing to go through a legal eviction process that would be more extensive than merely kicking someone out who's paying to stay there nightly or weekly. So it's less to legally protect the guest than it is to protect the motel.

For similar reasons, people who are enlisting the assistance of longer term house-sitters have to be careful.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#45 Post by Superswede11 » Mon Mar 05, 2018 4:43 pm

I'm enjoying the discussion above, but I think the pathos of the ending isn't reliant on if Halley is a good mom or not. Even if you think the intervention of authorities is necessary, the ending is crushing from Mooney's POV and that's what we get.

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#46 Post by felipe » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:52 pm

movielocke wrote: She is not failed by the system whatsover: she is a standard outcome of the system. She is the system working as intended.
What do you mean she is the standard outcome of the system? She's a short-term thinker, lots of bad choices, criminal record, got pregnant too young, probably cut all family ties (and by the end of the movie she doesn't even have friends anymore). How is the system responsible for that? Or you mean the system is failing her for not being more helpful to single mothers with a criminal record and a strong temper?

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#47 Post by Oedipax » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:52 pm

How is restricting the aid given to single mothers who have a criminal record helping out society in any way? And what did the kids do to deserve that?

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#48 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:57 am

You see, they aren't behaving in a way that is normal and acceptable, so they have to be punished so we can feel good about the way we behave. Always looking over your shoulder at how another person is conducting their lives and deciding what food they should be able to buy with their food stamps or what government assistance they should be able to have because of whether they take drugs or have a difficult past is the American way, Oedipax!

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Re: The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

#49 Post by swo17 » Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:10 pm

Judging fictional characters is almost as fun as judging real life ones.

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