You’ll Make It In Florida

By Phil Chernyak | Comedy
A depressed woman and her dog take a magical ride through Florida.

Pam is a depressed teacher, discontented with life, filled with ennui and living in dour, polluted New York. During lunch with her sister, she notices a travel ad for Florida in the magazine she is reading — an ad that comes to life and pulls Pam into its alternate universe.

In this other world, the wonders of Florida are presented to Pam by a very enthusiastic tour guide. But will the amusement parks and sunny sights be enough to pull Pam out of her funk and tempt her to change her life — and help the tour guide fulfill his destiny?

Written and directed by Phil Chernyak, this exuberantly eccentric short comedy-musical combines the zaniness of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the pure movie magic of Wizard of Oz. The gold rush of imagination co-exists in tandem with a melancholic, almost existential recognition of life’s difficulties, and brings to vivid, goofy life the yearning we feel for more, as well as our tendency to project a better life anywhere but where we are.

The premise innately allows for boldness in the storytelling, though it begins with a muted, drab sense of urban naturalism and the weathered cinematography of late 70s/early 80s TV. But the film shifts gears, getting brighter and more fantastical when the Florida magazine ad Pam sees comes to life, guided by a tour guide whose job is to sell her on the Sunshine State.

As he spirits her away and they fly through the sky, he throws one marvel after another at her, and the film riffs with great brio on this imaginary travelogue — so much so that the film almost forgets for a bit that it’s telling a story. The special effects that bring this “Florida state of mind” to life have an 80s retro feel, as befitting the era, which adds another level of eccentricity to the proceedings.

The actors, too, offer a set of performances that fit in with this stylized world. Actor Danny Burstein as the tour guide straddles the line between the cheeky hamminess of a cheesy commercial with engaging energy, while actor Emily Cass McDonnell as Pam combines deadpan boredom, quirky personality and equally dry wit. Both performers have fun with the heightened world and the film’s centerpiece musical number, bringing viewers along for an engaging, unforgettable ride — one that goes to wild, unexpected places and commits to its sense of good spirits, fun and adventure.

The great irony of “You’ll Make It In Florida” is that Pam goes on a roller-coaster of an odyssey, only to realize her life doesn’t need a huge makeover to give her contentment. She has the good sense to realize that the grass is not greener — or perhaps, the state is not sunnier — on the other side. In the simplest of ways, the answer is always within, and often found in getting clear on our purpose and helping others. It may take an inner Fantasia to get there to that place, but like many classic stories show, sometimes we have to wander far to realize who we are is where we will always be.

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