Director Sean Baker brought attention in 2015 with his indie film Tangerine. Shot entirely on an iPhone, it follows a transgender prostitute finding out her lover has cheated on her. On a $100,000 budget, its groundbreaking film techniques mixing with tough issues were enough reasons to make it the talk-of-the-town at its premiere at Sundance.
His new film, The Florida Project, gives the audience a glimpse of poverty through the eyes of a child. The results are simply electrifying!
Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) is an optimistic 6-year-old girl living with her selfish, unemployed mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) at the Magic Castle, a run-down motel run by manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe), which is located near Walt Disney World. Set during the summer, Moonee and her friends–Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera)–spend their free time getting into trouble, from spitting on a stranger’s car to setting an abandoned house on fire. This is a summer she will never forget.
The characters in The Florida Project feel like real people. Without any adult supervision, Moonee begins to see the world around her despite the situation she has to go through. With a breakout performance by Prince, she carries through providing the film’s humor and heart. Vinaite’s Halley takes zero shits from anybody while struggling to give the support she needs for her daughter (whom she loves with all of her heart), especially by earning spending her time selling cologne to tourists. The legendary Dafoe has delivered great performances over the years. He gives one of his finest of his career as a manager who always runs into problems at his motel.
There is irony when it comes to the “Happiest Place on Earth”. While not an easy movie to watch, one thing that makes The Florida Project so powerful is its message about the joys of childhood, even in an unpleasant environment. Shot almost entirely on 35 mm film, Baker’s wonderful direction and Alexis Zabe’s cinematography make every scene look like a painting coming to life. I love the scene where Moonee and Jancey sit on a tree while eating bread topped with jam. It might not be a movie I’ll watch again really soon, but seeing it once in theaters is an unforgettable