Tag Archives: Brooklynn Prince

Final Frontier

Settlers

by George Wolf

The settlement in writer/director Wyatt Rockefeller’s feature debut may be on Mars, but it’s his measured treatment of the colony’s constant dangers that allow the story to transcend any specific time and place.

Ilsa (Sofia Boutella), Reza (Jonny Lee Miller) and young Remmy (The Florida Project’s Brooklynn Prince) appear to be the only family on a barren Martian settlement, but then they wake to a giant “LEAVE” written on their front window and the questions begin to stack up.

Why is Jerry (Ismael Cruz Cordova) staking a claim to their place? What happened to all the other colonists, and how many others are out there lurking, maybe plotting to attack?

And what caused them all to leave Earth in the first place?

Rockefeller is not at all interested in easy answers, instead employing some first-rate performances and stellar production design to evoke a more universal statement on human nature, and more specifically, the often desperate and consistently overlooked role of women in nation building.

It’s a theme given an effective horror treatment in The Wind three years ago, and while the science fiction elements in Settlers are well-played, they’re also subtle enough to never upstage the character studies at work.

We see the first two acts of the film through young Remmy’s eyes, carefully observing the adults around her and making friends with a dog-like robot she calls “Steve.” Prince delivers a wonderfully tender performance, enabling us to feel Remmy sizing up her future choices with each passing day.

The film’s final act jumps ahead ten years, when a now teenage Remmy (the awesomely named Nell Tiger Free from GoT) is nearing the day she’ll be forced to make those hard choices. Jerry has become an even bigger presence in her life, and Cordova flexes an impressive ability to keep you guessing about Jerry’s true nature until late in the game.

If you lean toward tidy endings wrapped in unmistakable red bows, you’ll find none of those in Settlers. You will find an engrossing tale careful to leave plenty of opportunities for filling in the blank spaces.

Follow where it leads, and you’ll glimpse a future that’s inviting you to rethink the past. And the present.

Tragic Kingdom

The Florida Project

by Hope Madden

Full of the raucous rhythm of an unsupervised childhood, The Florida Project finds power in details and tells an unadorned but potent story.

Co-writer/director Sean Baker follows up his ambitious 2015 film Tangerine with another tale set gleefully along the fringes of society. Where Tangerine used weaves, stilettos and spangles to color the Christmas antics of Hollywood hustlers, here Baker fills the screen with bold colors and enormous, cartoonish images to create a grotesquely oversized playground.

The film begins with as perfect a movie opening as you will ever see.

Six-year-old Moonee (an astonishing Brooklynn Prince) wastes her summer days wandering the Orlando strip surrounding her home, a vivid purple bargain motel catering less to Disney World tourists than to tenants who can’t afford the security deposit world of traditional housing.

When she’s not out finding adventures with her besties Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera), Moonee’s probably hustling wholesale perfumes to tourists with her mom Halley (Bria Vinaite).

The one true grown up in the mix, motel manager Bobby, is played with charm and tenderness by Willem Dafoe.

Baker’s many talents include an ear for authentic dialog, a knack for letting a story breathe and an eye for visual details that enrich a tale. But maybe what’s most striking is his ability to tell fresh but universal stories. We all remember elements of unbridled recklessness in our childhood, although very few of us grew up the way Moonee does.

Baker creates a bridge into Moonee’s life, revels in her freedom and bravado, but keeps us always aware of the dangerous edges when you’re blurring childhood and adulthood.

It’s the concept of childhood and adulthood that preoccupies Baker and his story, set in this absurd, low-rent amusement park of a world. As Mooney’s mother, Vinaite offers a fierce mixture of childishness all her own as well as street-savviness. Halley keeps the ugliness of the world away with her own whimsy, and Vinaite’s onscreen chemistry with Prince is authentic and full of tenderness.

As much as Tinsel Town was the perfect backdrop for the struggling glamour of Tangerine, the shadow of Disney World is almost too perfect a setting for the grinding poverty and perverted innocence of The Florida Project.