These two films are vastly different to one another, but I’m putting them together because they highlight two sides of the film taste spectrum. Hopefully these short reviews will give you an indicator whether they are the sort of films you’d like to see.
Happy Death Day
This movie tells the tale of Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) – a classic sorority college girl who is caught in a loop of being murdered then waking up to relive the day again. The concept of this film is not original, but certainly an interesting spin on Groundhog Day. Going in, I was expecting a horror or slasher experience, however it ended up being more of a Mean Girls – esque college movie with a murder plot added on. There was little to no scares and certainly no tension in the murder scenes. The violence was pretty weak and take a few things out of this film and it probably could have passed for a 12A. Despite this the murder moments weren’t totally boring thanks to some obvious humour and nods to comic cinema. The plot moves quickly and overall the runtime went by fairly quickly, with maybe a few minutes in the middle feeling like excess material. A lot of the film is cliché and obvious, though Rothe does well in the lead to keep you engaged. The rest of the cast are fine, though not all that interesting. There are mostly cheap thrills here and the ending left me sort of disappointed. It felt as though they missed out on a chance to do something intriguing with the concept, and in the end they played it very safe. Not a terrible 96 minutes, but definitely not something I’ll be rushing to see again. It’s perhaps good for a date movie, or a group of friends? If you’re expecting horror though or weird existential themes I wouldn’t bother.
Presentation (look of the movie – cinematography, mise-en-scene etc): 2/3
Performances (the acting): 1.5/3
Narrative (plot & story points): 1.5/3
Effect (Did this film impact me in any way?): 0/1
Final score: 5/10
The Florida Project
Set at a low rent motel in the shadows of Disney-Land, this film follows a troubled young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) as they live recklessly and struggle to get by. Let me first start of by saying that American poverty fascinates me. There is something so unsettling and sickly about it. This film is unsettling in that way, but also has a lot of heart. On the basic level it reminds me of last year’s American Honey, yet it is far more focused and far more connectable. The film is gorgeously shot and meanders a long keeping track of a group of young kids just aimlessly having fun in and around the motel. It spends time with the struggling parents, who are certainly not instantly likeable. The film bounces around from moment to moment with no real rules about time or scenes. Director Sean Baker stays on things when he wants to and this gives the film a natural feel. At its foundations though it has a solid performance from Willem Dafoe, who plays the manager of the motel. He figuratively and literally pulls the film together to keep it tangent and watchable. There is no hero in the film, but he has heroic moments, and I think without him the film would drift away into the abstract. Alongside him is a mesmerising, and often very funny, performance by Brooklynn Prince who is just 7. She has more personality than your average adult and is the star of the film. Her mother is a desperate character and you have to realise that there is little redemption for her, so Bria Vinaite does well in a tricky role. Everything that happens in the film is totally believable, and every scene feels necessary. It certainly has its moments of boredom like any independent drama and the ending will certainly leave a few people a bit confused. The film touches on poverty, and capitalist abandonment, yet it is mostly a human film. It has more love than tragedy and I would recommend this film to anyone who can stand looking at those in society that America has forgotten about.
Final score: 9/10
Are both films worth your ticket price? The Florida Project – 100%. Happy Death Day – maybe if it’s a cheaper ticket.