The Florida ProjectCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Disney World: the happiest place on Earth, where dreams come true. Yet in the shadow of Cinderella’s castle, a very different reality takes place for six-year-old Moonee and her tribe of adventuring youngsters who run the spoiled, bargain-basement streets of Orlando as their own fairytale playground.
Riding the high of his successful 2015 indie-drama Tangerine, Sean Baker further flourishes his talent of crafting poignant, enriching narratives that use humour and wit as a platform to shine a light on pressing issues without shrouding the audience with “statistics and heartache and tragedy” (Baker speaking with The Hollywood Reporter). The Florida Project is an unexpectedly uplifting experience, expressing the unrelenting concerns of homelessness through the eyes of innocents.
Willem Dafoe gives a career-defining performance as hotel manager Bobby, whose guests are more like his family, in particular Moonee’s troubled mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) whom he desperately seeks to aid. Yet it is newcomer Brooklynn Prince who steals the show, giving a spine-tingling and emotionally charged performance as potty-mouthed Moonee, who rules the roost of her pastel-painted “Magic Castle” where forbidden doorways and mysterious neighbours only enhance her fancy. Moonee is wise beyond her years, yet it is through her blossoming friendships with young Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and Scooty (Christopher Riveria) that we see beyond the veil of her hardened exterior: she is just a child who uses her imagination to escape the horrors of the everyday.
Baker’s movie is stark in contrast to other neo-realistic films. Think of Ken Loach whose well acclaimed 1966 drama Cathy Come Home or the more recent Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, where both tackle extremely similar issues but with a doom and gloom approach. However, Alexis Zabe’s dreamy pastel shots exhibit Orlando’s rundown backstreets in a way that is not glaringly obvious, instead allowing the audience to get lost in the glorious technicolor, breaking away from any over-bearing tension.
The Florida Project reminds us that film as a form of art serves the purpose of creating a dialogue not only about the movie itself, but what it ultimately represents. By using complex characters and stylistic filmmaking, Baker has succeeded in opening our eyes to the atrocities that occur under our very noses, if we only care to look.
The Florida Project is released nationwide on 10th November 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Florida Project here: