THE FLORIDA PROJECT
SEAN BAKER | USA | ENGLISH | 2017 | 115 MIN
Set at a dilapidated motel in the shadows of the “happiest place on earth,” THE FLORIDA PROJECT is director Sean Baker’s (TANGERINE) stunning look at the innocence of childhood juxtaposed against the harsh realities of life.
With THE FLORIDA PROJECT, director and co-writer Baker may have ditched the raw, lively iPhone-filmed style of his recent hit TANGERINE. Yet THE FLORIDA PROJECT is similarly able to tap into an infectious sense of childlike playfulness and joy, even as it gives weight to the dire economic situations and disturbing realities of its characters. Despite their squalid surroundings at the ironically titled Magic Castle, six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her best friend Scooty (Christopher Rivera) reign over the budget motel as if it were their very own Magic Kingdom. Peering out over the vast parking lot from the second floor balcony, the two regally anoint parked cars with their spit. When an angry grandmother catches them in the act, their forced apology leads them to an encounter with the woman’s innocent granddaughter Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and thus a fellowship is forged. The trio soon build an epic summer for themselves, hustling change from unsuspecting mothers to get ice cream, playing with fuse boxes and wreaking havoc in abandoned buildings. Told through the lens of this candy colored, larger-than-life paradise that they inhabit, THE FLORIDA PROJECT doesn’t ignore the harsh reality lingering at the fringes of the kids’ daily escapades and we simultaneously follow along as Moonee’s young, hot-tempered mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) must go to sordid extremes to help cover rent and other necessities for her daughter. Watching over all the tenants of the Magic Castle is paternal motel manager Bobby, played by Willem Dafoe in what is possibly his most soft, thoughtful, and achingly sympathetic role to date. His fatherly instincts and his own inner struggles to do the right thing are, next to Moonee’s growing loss of innocence, at the heart of unforgettably hilarious, energetic and heartbreaking film about the nature of friendship.
CAST: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto, Bria Vinaite
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