Viewer’s Discretion: ‘The Florida Project’ and ‘Peaky Blinders’


‘THE FLORIDA PROJECT’ (AMAZON, APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, VUDU)

Centering around 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite), “The Florida Project” portrays a life lived in cheap motels, where struggling families find shelter in the shadow of Disney World.

And it does cast a shadow, though it takes the form of knock-offs. The motel Moonee lives in is a lavender-painted lie called the Magic Castle, and its neighborhood, pretty much a strip mall, is littered with stores whose names reference Disney somehow.

Moonee is mostly left to her own devices, and much of the movie involves her and her friends running around, causing trouble and cursing. There’s an exuberance to her comings and goings, the type of thing we celebrated in film a century ago and called it “The Little Rascals,” but now we expect children, even those in movies, to behave if they expect us to watch them.

Moonee didn’t ask for her autonomy, but she makes the best of it. It’s hard to say if Halley does the same as a mother, but it occurred to me while watching and struggling to decide if she was a “good” mother or a “bad” mother, that those two words are one of the biggest problems with our society. Such things defy a binary definition and those words don’t describe most people.

“The Florida Project” reminded me a lot of the film and accompanying TV series “This Is England,” which depicted the antics of wayward skinheads in Thatcher’s England. Both films are about lost children and the responsibility we heap on them for their circumstance. Not only is Moonee a lost child, but so is Halley. “The Florida Project” suggests that we need to stop blaming children for the damage they sustain.


‘PEAKY BLINDERS’ (NETFLIX)

When “Peaky Blinders” first hit screens four years ago, it did so as an edgy historical crime drama built around the dynamic between an up-and-coming head of a crime family in Manchester, England, and the operation meant to infiltrate and take the organization down. That dynamic changed and in the third season, the show struggled to find itself. The good news is that Season 4 remembered what made the show so compelling — the characters — and represents an intense and satisfying return to form.

As the story unfolds, we find the Shelby family in tatters, but forced grimacing into a reunion when an American Mafioso marks them all in a revenge sweep that dredges up a number of the family’s sins. It’s more than just a plot point — it’s a way to make the dramatic interaction between family members more intimate, more reflective, a way to strip them down to their raw motivations and force them to figure out how all these parts fit together.

As the Mafioso tears through Manchester hunting the family down, the real tension is between family leader Tommy Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy with a captivating intensity, and other family members. At front and center is Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), a swaggering lady gangster, who seems to have decided to take down her crime boss nephew and preserve herself and her son. Tension is also at the heart of the brotherly love between Tommy and older brother Arthur (Paul Anderson), a raging, broken id with a child-like soul whose self-destructive tendencies complete the Shelby monster, along with Tommy’s cunning and soulless approach to life.

As ever, “Peaky Blinders” is the tale of war as a betrayal of the working class — both Tommy and Arthur are damaged World War I vets — and the way the ruling class set their lives up as a prize that only the most pathological of the lower classes can achieve. It’s a game of survival for Tommy Shelby as he swindles his way up the class ladder. He’s probably one of the most awful characters on television you could ever find yourself cheering for. He lost his soul in war and, unlike his brother Arthur, he never wanted it back. A soul would only hamper what he needs to do to survive.


Originally published at www.berkshireeagle.com.

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