5 reasons to see The Florida Project
Sean Baker is one of independent cinema's most audacious directors.
Often focusing on stories rarely told, and representing groups who we don't typically get to see on the big screen, Baker's interests lie in the undiscovered and under-represented. Take for example his last film, Tangerine, which followed two African-American trans-gendered prostitutes, and starred two trans actresses.
With The Florida Project, Baker takes a perspective that is hard to execute successfully, as he channels childhood in a way unlike anything we've ever experienced. Told through the eyes of six-year-old Moonee, The Florida Project deals with poverty in an almost surreal way. It does so brilliantly, and therefore is one of our favourite films of the year.
Here are our five reasons to see The Florida Project:
Brooklynn Prince and Bria VinaiteSean Baker is a pro at making acting discoveries, and boy did he hit the jackpot with these two. Apparently Baker found Bria Vinaite on Instagram, and although she has never acted before, she gives a jaw dropping turn as Moonee's young mother who has some unconventional methods of making a living to support herself and her daughter. As much as we were won over by Bria, the even bigger revelation is seven-year-old Brooklynn Prince, who gives the single best child performance in recent memory. As Moonee, Brooklynn carries The Florida Project on her shoulders. She has an on-screen presence that is absolutely mesmerizing. She will earn your affection even as she causes havoc throughout the film, and mostly she'll remind you with vividness what childhood was like.
As we just mentioned, The Florida Project is a film that tackles the notion of childhood in a wholly original way. With the film set on the outskirts of Disney World, there's an intrinsically fantastical element to the story. We're living in a child's mind, with the world at her feet, and even though her living situation is stricken with poverty, all of these serious struggles are not apparent to Moonee. There's an aura of innocence and ignorance that surrounds the film, the purity of being a child who doesn't know the reality of her situation.
We're used to seeing Willem Dafoe play villainous, corrupt people. That's what makes it extra refreshing to see him here as Bobby, the motel manager who is the moral centre of the film. This is a character who acts almost like a father figure to the residents of his motel. Bobby is flawed and clearly has his own secrets and past, but when he's at work, he is sincerely caring for those around him. It's a role that could win Dafoe his first Oscar, and there's no way that you could leave this film without falling in love with his character and performance.
With the film set in sunny Florida, just outside of Disney World, and channeling the nature of childhood, there's a gorgeous vibrancy to the cinematography in The Florida Project. We'd argue that this is the most beautifully photographed film of the year, with hues of purple, pink, blue and yellow that are to die for. The colour is also used to help give the story that surreal element. You'll truly feel transported to this world because of how these colours will make you feel.
Any other film would have treated these characters much differently than The Florida Project does. Baker manages to take an optimistic viewpoint on a dire situation, and gives these characters each their own fully developed arc that paints them as real people, not archetypes who we are manipulated to feel sympathy for. There's a heart to the film that resonates beyond the basic elements of the plot, as it tackles the nature of childhood, family, poverty, and simply how to be a kind person and help those in need. It may also change your perspective on life and on people you may have preconceived notions about.