Movies about low-rent, gritty, desperate or downtrodden characters

I want to talk about two movies that I’ve watched right at the end of 2017 as I was catching up on some of the critically acclaimed movies of the year. For reasons that are hard to describe, one of them worked for me and one of them didn’t. These movies are called The Florida Project and Good Time. So this thread will have spoilers for both of those.

Both are about characters living in difficult, low-economic situations. The characters in both – in particular Bria Vinaite in The Florida Project and Robert Pattinson in Good Time – make bad decisions, some for good reasons, others just out of selfishness. In many ways they are both unlikeable, but are also loving in their own way. Both movies have good, naturalistic performances.

If you’ve seen both movies, I’d sure like to hear your take. Because while I adored The Florida Project, Good Time didn’t work for me. At first, while watching The Florida Project, I found myself a bit restless at scenes of kids playing that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. But eventually you realize that it’s all building to create this incredibly authentic sense of place around this low-rent motel and the types of people who live there. You believe that a character could have no money and yet would spend her time lying around smoking weed. You believe that a motel manager could know that his tenant is doing unwise things and that he would still have sympathy for her. You believe that other tenants would give her a place to crash even after she’s treated them poorly. I left the movie with an overwhelming and lingering sense of having experienced a real place, even given the flights of fancy that happen. It reminded me of Beasts of the Southern Wilds.

Good Time, on the other hand, seems almost gratuitously gritty, almost gimmicky, like the visual style and energy of the film is trying too hard to convince you you’re seeing more than a nihilistic story about a slime ball doing ignorant things, with an ugly racial angle added in for good measure. Robert Pattinson is excellent in it, which seems to be the reason it is getting such good word of mouth. I can’t quite put my finger on why this is the impression I came away with.

I’m wondering if anyone else has seen both films and what your takeaway was?

I really like you bundling these two movies together, @sinnick.

I liked the Florida Project a whole heck of a lot (top 15, maybe top 10 liked). With the exception of the very last scene, it seemed like it could be a fairly realistic portrayal of life for some folks. I loved how Dafoe dealt with the creepy old guy.

It was a movie that left me feeling sad, but it was worth it. I suspect that for some parents this could be a difficult movie to watch at times.

Good Time is a movie where I can appreciate what the filmmakers were trying to do and I think that Pattinson was excellent. I really liked Buddy Duress as Ray and Taliah Webster as Crystal. I wasn’t a big fan of the movie though. And that’s on me I would say, not on the movie. I just found the darn thing so bleak with the lead character making one bad decision after the other and leaving a trail of destruction in his path.

Descriptions like this always make me think of Midnight Cowboy.

Yes! That was a fantastic scene.

As a parent, I was pretty unforgiving of her terrible choices, but I thought it was interesting that the movie never showed her outright abusing her daughter, not even getting angry or yelling. It was really just negligence, selfishness and stupidity. I do suspect I came away with a harsher opinion of her than others might.

First one that popped into my mind.


Los Olvidados
In Cold Blood
This Is England
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

edit: Oh, I misunderstood the purpose of this thread. Well anyway.

It can be for those things too!

If the thread can be about those things too, then Wendy & Lucy, definitely. Some crime dramas, neorealist movies and noir start with desperate straits which motivate the main character to do things they shouldn’t to keep food in their belly, like The bicycle thieves, The Godfather Part 2, Nightcrawler, and City of God.

The two movies mentioned in the first post sound great too, there are a ton of movies I still have to see from this year before I can feel good about making a Best of 2017 list.

I loved both Good Time and The Florida Project.

Good Time was like a nightmare that hooked me in immediately. I’m a little worried about watching it a second time because the initial viewing was such an intense experience that had me anxious to know where the movie would go next. And maybe I’m a psychopath, but I kinda liked the “ugly racial angle.” And by liked I mean at times I felt sick to my stomach. Overall I found the movie to be a successful act of terror against my brain. Buddy Duress’ ultimate fate is a series of images that will probably stay with me always. That might be a personal abstract thing for me though. I don’t have any unusual fear of heights, but rather it was the inevitability and mundanity of the moment that evoked a familiar feeling I’ve had upon waking from a nightmare.

The Florida Project is the kind of great movie that I expect to be great and end up not loving quite as much as it deserves because it is what I wanted it to be. I sorta took the specificity and accuracy of the world-building for granted. I guess that’s praise for Sean Baker and crew that at the very least I expected the, uh, mise-en-scène to be “correct.” And then the script and acting were really good as well. I’m someone who likes movies that don’t rely on that dull concept of “plot” to make a movie interesting, so The Florida Project is right up my alley.

I would compare The Florida Project to movies like American Honey and Fish Tank, and of course Baker’s Tangerine and Starlet. I suppose Beasts of the Southern Wild works as well, though I often think of that the same way I do things like The Tree of Life and The Fountain; like cosmic epics or something. Good Time is almost a 70s crime movie with a modern veneer. The Safdie brothers’ previous movie Heaven Knows What is definitely in the broader sort of category of movie you’re talking about. It might be more like TFP though as it’s not a genre movie, but a junkies-are-tedious movie. Dingus would hate it.

It’s been a long time, but I do recall Midnight Cowboy having a similar sort of feel, as @Mark_L mentioned. The aesthetics are so bombastic that it might not be immediately obvious, but Spring Breakers is a movie that scratches the same sort of filthy itch as some of these others. Stranger Than Paradise has some great apartment production design, but it’s not exactly to the level of squalor. And Barfly, while goofy, is certainly a movie about people down on their luck.

-Chris Webb