Your weekly streaming pick is The Florida Project. The movie follows some of the most natural child actors who have ever graced the screen. Be warned, these kids will steal your heart. The Florida Project is the funniest and most realistically sad movie you’ll see this year.
Growing up in the shadow of Walt Disney World Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) doesn’t see the larger world around her. Moonee and her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto) are more or less left to themselves. This is especially troubling when you learn they are six year olds. The kids live with whatever adult is in charge of them. The most positive influence in their lives is Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Bobby is the manager of the trashy motel they all live in. Despite being hard on the kids and tenants alike Bobby is a caring man. He protects his flock with his own brand of tough love.
Most movies give you a glimpse into the lives of the characters. Sometimes this glimpse is in passing. Sometimes the glimpse delves deeper than the people around the characters realize. The Florida Project plays out like you’re one of the residents of the brightly painted motel. Focusing primarily on the kids; the movie takes a much more optimistic look at a depressing world.
Everything about Moonee’s world are downright sad to the casual viewer. Moonee, Scooty, and Jancey don’t see it that way. The art direction and cinematography are spot on for the optimistic way a child sees the world. They live in their own bubbles crafted of naivety in the best possible way. The cracks in the facade only become clear when people from the larger world wander into the motel’s small community. These glimpses, are blunt. A hard punctuation mark on how hard the film’s protagonists have it.
The only big name actor in the movie is Willem Dafoe. Dafoe is a brilliant actor who is well known for his intensity. Dafoe grounds the movie with a perfect performance. The kids and their guardians round out the cast with performances so natural it’s incredible to think they weren’t raised in the Hollywood system.
On the surface The Florida Project is a simple story during a single summer of a happy child. The movie is two stories. Moonee’s bright, vibrant, fun world and Halley’s bitter cold one. For every scene of Moonee having a great time there is the contrast of Halley hurting. Halley is often combative to her own detriment but her tough exterior is a very obvious facade.
Writer/Director Sean Baker is no stranger to honest looks at American life. His writing credits include Tangerine, Starlet, and Prince of Broadway. Three critically acclaimed movies that follow downtrodden people living harsh lives. The honesty and lack of judgement in Baker’s writing make all his movies refreshing to watch.
The Florida Project is the perfect blend of stellar performances, perfect writing, and expert execution. All taking place in the remnants of an area swept under a rug by Walt Disney World. The presence of the ‘happiest place on earth’ is a looming presence.
The Florida Project is now streaming on Amazon Prime