The Florida Project

The Florida Project

Director: Sean Baker
Running Time: 115 minutes


This film had its final screening at The Nightlight on December 7, 2017.

Poverty and joy in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom. This is The Florida Project.

Following his much lauded iPhone-shot Tangerine, director Sean Baker, has lost none of his fire and exuberance working with a larger budget and some well-known cast members. Indeed, Willem Dafoe, as the reluctant father-figure manager at the Orlando motel where this movie is set, gives one of the best film performances of his entire career. Baker, who has a number of microbudget features under his belt, has catapulted himself into a whole new league now.

The first third of The Florida Project blazes forward at high-speed, in a stylised blur, with some of the best kid acting this side of Truffaut’s Pocket Money. In very small increments things slow down and take a more documentary-style approach. A storm is coming (as it often does in Florida), and all of it is depressingly predictable. Just what exactly is a woman like Halley supposed to do to make money when there are no jobs?

While minimal on plot, the film digs in its nails on the day-to-day struggles of poor people in America. Even those with jobs are a little skittish, like the cab driver eyeing every minute not making a fare, or the commanding and level-headed Bobby, who changes his demeanour when the motel owner is on premises. That this all takes place in the Magic Kingdom’s shadow is a metaphor upon which lesser film-makers would lean more heavily.

But look out for Bria Vinaite, who Baker discovered on social media, and especially young Brooklynn Prince. This movie could never work without a performers of their calibre. Things look grim for Halley and Moonee, but we can expect a lot from the people who brought their marvellous story to light.

~~ Jordan Hoffman, guardian.com