Poverty and poetry through the eyes of children. The Florida Project is an astonishing movie.
After the announcement this morning from this year's 90th Academy Award nominations, every Sean Baker (director of The Florida Project and 2015's Tangerine) fan out there was left utterly disappointed. The Florida Project received no Oscar love and only managed to grab one nomination for actor Willem Dafoe in a Supporting Role. It’s a harsh blow to such a powerful movie that more people need to see. So, anyone out there still on the fence about seeing this film, don’t let its minimal nominations sway you away. The Florida Project is Baker’s beautiful love letter to those who struggle and are still struggling in this harsh world of ours.
This hidden gem is a feast for the eyes, as we follow the story of a precocious six-year-old, Moonee (a wonderful Brooklynn Prince), and her ragtag group of friends. Baker takes an empathetic look at an underrepresented part of the population in modern America. The color blend of visuals and personality allows The Florida Project to raise sobering questions about the fabric of our society. Childhood is full of wonders, we see this in Moonee and her friend’s summer experiences that's also fueled by their sense of adventure; while the adults around them struggle with hard times. It’s a grand character study, as we observe Moonee, Jancey and Scooty from one block to the next.
Moonee lives with her young mother Halley (an electric Bria Vinaite) in the Magic Castle, a motel in Kissimmee, Florida near Walt Disney World. Moonee and her pals spend most of their days unsupervised, as they engage in mischief, mooching from tourists, stealing, and other misbehavior. They usually get an ice cream or two by the end of it. Baker throws his audience into the eyes of children as we experience at first-hand their language and friendship with each other. Most of the film feels natural as Moonee, Jancey and Scooty travel around the motel and other places in Kissimmee. But, the biggest performance goes to actor Willem Dafoe, who gives a well-guided and heartfelt performance as Bobby the motel manager.
Dafoe’s loving performance as Bobby is one of his best to-date. On the surface, The Florida Project is a purple utopia, but below it lies a place full of conflicts and heartaches. By the end, the film will hit you like a shot to the heart. Go watch it if you have the chance, it receives all five stars from me and will definitely be in my top ten list from 2017. Like a vibrant cinematic playground, we follow these children as they discover their sense of adventure. The depiction of Moonee’s final fantasy through the magical world will bring you onto the verge of tears. “I would like to dedicate this award to all the Moonee’s out there…" “Guys, this is a real problem. You need to go out there and help. Thank you so much.” – Brooklynn Prince.
The Florida Project is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references and some drug material.