THE FLORIDA PROJECT (NC16)
Someone told me that I'd cry buckets after watching this indie drama.
While I didn't get that emotional, this film will tug at your heartstrings because there is sad truth to the premise.
Director Sean Baker sheds light on an impoverished community living in rundown motels just outside "the happiest place on earth" - Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
We follow Moonee (a remarkable Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), a resourceful six-year-old living in a purple motel called Magic Castle.
She and her friends, Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera) would run around the neighbourhood unsupervised, eating ice cream and getting into mischief as kids do. They create their own fairy tales, oblivious to the struggles their parents face.
Moonee's mum Halley (a convincing Bria Vinaite) is in her early 20s and also a kid herself. She clearly has her own version of parenting and is certainly a bad influence on Moonee.
She is happily unemployed and cannot be bothered to work, yet she feels she is entitled to free food (from her friend who works in a fast-food joint) and government handouts. And when money runs out, her instant solution is to advertise herself online as a prostitute.
Willem Dafoe is the kindly motel manager Bobby. Often playing the role of a father figure, he casts a sympathetic and protective eye over his problematic tenants.
Despite the sunny Florida skies, Baker shows how easily harsh realities can darken lives. The last scene of this thought-provoking film is heartrending as Moonee drops her tough-survivor front and becomes who she really is - a mere six-year-old. -JOANNE SOH - 4 Ticks
GAME NIGHT (NC16)
Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman star as married couple Annie and Max, who host weekly game nights in their home.
One particular game night gets chaotic when Max's brother Brooks' (Kyle Chandler) idea of a murder-mystery game got out of hand.
This comedy, like a good game of Snakes And Ladders, has many ups and downs. Despite McAdams and Bateman's winning chemistry, the film slides down the longest ladder mid-way and never finds its way back up - no credit to the script's numerous twists and attempts to outwit itself.
At that point, the story gets so ridiculous that you do not even know what the game is all about. - JOANNE SOH - 2.5 ZTicks