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  1. Published on: 10/11/2017 09:21 AMReported by: Film Critic
    Plot: Set over one summer, we see the day-to-day life of residents at a motel living in the shadows of Disney World.

    After the critical success with director Sean Baker's breakthrough feature 'Tangerine’ that was shot entirely on an iPhone, many indie film fans were anxious to see what his next project would be.
    I heard the amount of buzz this was getting since it debuted at Cannes, and this became a dead-cert for checking out on general release.

    The trailer does suggest those type of indie dramas that the major awards usually nominate and general audiences don't care for. I honestly had subconsciously thought that as well. But I have taught myself to look beyond the trailer and always go in with an open mind, and what I saw was very powerful viewing.

    It's a story told from a children's prospective. You get introduced to characters that at first seem totally brattish, mischievous and sometimes utterly despicable. But as the film goes on, you feel a sweetness about them, the stuff they say is absolutely hilarious and there is a real sense of community in an environment that America tries to un-see and not mention to tourists.
    All of that gives you enough sympathy to make you get heavily invested in these characters.
    As for the story, you can tell from the very first scene and general pacing of the film that it something bad is going to come out of this. It's as if was slowly boiling up to something tragic or unspeakable. Then we get to the end, and........well, we'll get to the ending later.

    The performances are fantastic. Everyone plays their part perfectly and there were three major stand-outs. The star of the show from minute one is youngster Brooklynn Prince. Aged at just 7-years old, she is an absolute revelation. To be honest, the kids on the whole are wonderful, but Prince is the star. The director really humanises the cast, and Prince's character is leading the way. Yes, she may come off as a major trouble-maker. But she street-smart sense of living and hilarious dialogue she is given makes you just warm to her and make extremely watchable. The stuff her character comes out may end up being the funniest lines in any movie this year.
    Playing the role of her mother is Bria Vinaite in her first feature role. A bit like with Prince, she is the type of person that would feel insulted by their behaviour in real-life. However, unlike her characters daughter, Vinaite's is just the worst. But while you get disgusted with her characters behaviour, I never ignored the strong and raw performance she was giving. It is the personification of the society in America living in the slums and desperate for money to keep moving on in life.
    A third stand-out is Willem Dafoe, who gives a career-best performance. His character is almost like the guardian angel to all of this community and while he is doing his job of authority, there is that sympathy that he has for these people and wants to help at the same time without showing true emotion.
    These three performance are certainly worthy of any major awards nominations.

    There's not much to talk about outside of the script and cast. It is shot beautifully. If you have seen Tangerine, then you are aware of the directors quality of camerawork with the smallest amount of recording equipment. The Florida skyline and the brightly coloured architecture really gave you a sense of the world these people live in, especially one the many gloriously tracked wide shots.

    Now we come to the ending as I mentioned before. While I'm giving this a high amount of strong positives, I was put off by the very final scene. The build-up was leading us to something I could sense throughout the entire duration. There was a strong moment that made me and pretty much the entire audience I was with overwhelming and then suddenly we get was something completely out of tone in every department. Even the camera work and use of score was like this came from a completely different film. I guarantee when you see this, you will say something along the lines of "is that it, is it over?". It's clear to see that this was purposely done. So I don't know what made the director do this. I'm sure I'll find out in the end.

    It is a real shame the very final scene left a bitter taste. The pay-off needs to be pretty strong as that will be the moment you'll be thinking of the most when leaving the screening. While everything before it was of the highest quality of story-telling, that ending really changed my mood.

    Despite that disappointing ending, I felt the film to be very impressive. This part of society definitely seems to be the directors wheelhouse in getting their point across with such rich characters and sharp dialogue. Baker also shows great metaphor and contrast between the rich and poor due to its location.

    I hope to see success for this film in the awards I look forward to see what Baker and his team do next as he will probably continue to get more money for the budget of his future projects.

    Rating: 8/10
     
    Last edited by Film Critic; 11/11/2017 at 10:50 AM.

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