The Fine Line Between Art and Entertainment

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project tells the story of six-year-old Moonee and her misadventures as a naive girl living in poverty. With compelling acting from Brooklyn Prince (who was only seven at the time the movie came out), breathtaking cinematography by Alexis Zabe, and captivating shots from Sean Baker, this film quickly became one of my favorite films of all time. When it came onto Netflix, I was absolutely thrilled. I told my friends about how excited I was, only to find out one did not share my enthusiasm. They explained how the movie bored them; how it had no story line. At first I was surprised-of course it had a story! How could it not? Then I thought about it…and slowly realized she was right.

The Florida Project doesn’t follow a strict narrative. There’s no inciting incident. There’s no journey to a mysterious land. Even the ending is vague and unclear. Instead of following a specific plot, Baker allows us, the audience, to experience a portion of someone’s everyday life. This slice-of-life approach to a coming-of-age was an act of genius, I thought. The movie plays out like how life usually plays out: messy, unpredictable, and unconnected. And I’m not the only one to think this. To quote another friend, “it doesn’t have a plot, but I guess that’s the point.”

But to some people, this becomes the dealbreaker to a good film. Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s 2017 Action/War film, achieved critical acclaim, as well as sweeping a few Oscar wins. Despite all of the praise, many audience goers began to complain about the same thing-that it was boring. When I saw Dunkirk for the first time, I began to understand why. Similar to The Florida Project, Dunkirk did not follow a strict narrative. For someone who’s restricted on their knowledge about World War 2, it sometimes became difficult to catch up with all of the different characters and plotlines while managing to enjoy simply watching the movie. Nonetheless, I couldn’t deny the talent and incredible work that went into the making of this film. The cinematography in Dunkirk had me completely stunned. It was absolutely beautiful. Not to mention the million of other things that made this movie great. It. Was. Good. But at the same time, I couldn’t help thinking about what people have said about it. Clearly, Dunkirk was a phenomenal film. So why did people dislike it so much?

Like I said, movies like The Florida Project and Dunkirk don’t follow the traditional plot line we’re all familiar with. They’ve both achieved critical acclaim, but not the greatest of reviews from audiences. What was the problem?

I think a lot of people tend to forget that a good movie should be two things at once: art and entertainment. I mean, that’s the whole point of a movie right? By using different artistic choices, filmmakers should be able to build and enhance a compelling story. Usually though, a movie is based on one or the other. One example that comes to mind for me, is The Kissing Booth. Objectively, this is a very, very, bad movie. The plot is cringy and forced, and often includes unsettling themes. That didn’t stop me from watching it. It’s hilarious to laugh at how bad it is. It was one of those ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ movies. While The Kissing Booth managed to fail to bring any merit to the table, it still managed to be an extremely entertaining movie; which is probably why many, many pre-teens raved about how good it was. And yes, I know, this movie was for that intended audience. But still, you get my point. 

The best movies, obviously, are ones that manage to be both artistic and entertaining. But like any other art, it’s always subjective. It would be impossible not to be. What’s entertaining for you, may not be entertaining to me. Which is why I believe discussion is very important. And what better way to do that then write my very own blogs? As time goes on, I’ll be sharing a lot of my opinions on movies, and yours as well. Building our own community has been so much fun, and I hope that our platform can grow as we continue to go ‘off the script’.

The Florida Project, 2017, Sean Baker

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