THE FLORIDA PROJECT (2017)

dir. Sean Baker. Halley (Bria Vinaite) is a young single mother, looking after her six year old daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), living in a motel in Florida, close to the Walt Disney World amusement parks. Moonee is on school holidays, and spends her days exploring her surroundings with other children who live in the motel. Her mother Halley, does her best to create a positive environment for Moonee, which becomes increasingly challenging. Almost entirely told from the perspective of Moonee, we watch her spend her days hustling for ice cream money, running errands to collect free food for her mother, and getting in the way of exasperated, but protective motel manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe). The majority of the movie is spent watching heartbreakingly sweet (most of the time) Moonee, as the adult world encroaches on her world of adventures and friendship. The candy coloured setting is also remarkable, a different pallet to Sean Baker’s previous film TANGERINE (2015), and even more distinctive. One of the best ambiguous endings to a movie in a long time.

THE HOUSE (2017)

dir. Andrew Jay Cohen. Pleasantly surprising comedy about parents (Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell) who work with a gambling addict neighbour (Jason Mantzoukas) to open an illegal casino in their house to raise money to pay for their daughters education. Simple wacky idea, that has many hilarious moments, and a few flat moments. There are some unexpected moments of violence and gore that seem over the top, but have a payoff at the end. Great to see Jason Mantzoukas as the neighbour, who people might know as Derek from the ‘The Good Place’ TV series, or as Adrian Pimento in ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. Part of the charm is how they create a full Las Vegas style casino in suburban home, complete with massage parlour, a comedy club, and bars – this had so much more potential, but they don’t spend much time on this sadly.