The Florida Project (USA)
January 25, 2018, SilverCity
6:30 & 8:25 pm
Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe
Runtime: 111 minutes
Language: English | Spanish | Portuguese
“It’s one of the most effective, honest portraits of childhood you’ll ever see, and a touching, poignant snapshot of American life in 2017.”—Adam Graham, Detroit News
Toronto Film Critics’ Association Awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe); Boston Society of Film Critics Awards (Best Supporting Actor, Willem Dafoe); AFI Awards, Movie of the Year. 19 other wins, 24 other nominations.
Director Sean Baker bounces off his electrifying, iPhone-shot Tangerine with yet another intimate, emotional roller coaster about people on the margins. This time it’s the margins of Disney World, but shot in 35mm.
“Florida Project” is what Walt Disney called his Orlando development, transforming swamp land into the Magic Kingdom. Not too far away, seemingly worlds apart, is the Magic Castle, a cheap, pastel-coloured motel run by Willem Dafoe’s Bobby. Seemingly savvy Bobby is regularly undone by his empathy when dealing with his struggling clientele–and, most importantly, their children – who inhabit his motel.
The story actually centers on six-year-old Moonee, (Brooklynn Prince), an adorable child and brilliant discovery. Moonee and a rotating roster of friends find ways to make the most of their motel-strip environment: spitting on cars, gawking at topless bathers, curling up to horrified tourists or embarking on a perpetual hunt for ice cream.
All the while, Baker observes an intricate economy at work, where someone’s loss is always another’s gain. When one child moving out of the motel sadly has to let his toys go due to the lack of the space in the car, the other kids have a field day. When Moonee’s young, reckless mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite) finds ways to be self-sufficient, it’s at a cost.
The Florida Project is perceptive to the charm and strength of character found in humble places. The film lingers on small details and passing amusements, the ebb and flow of days that may seem aimless but actually build purposefully toward an emotional downpour and a challenge to our humanity.