I have an inane goal to see all of the Best Picture nominees before they are announced, so when I saw The Florida Project was coming back into theaters briefly, I bopped one town over for a showing. As a Georgia native, I have intimate knowledge about Florida and its weird hodgepodge of regions. However, I have not spent much time in Orlando, and almost no time off of Disney/Universal properties. So I was pretty in the dark about the bizarre subculture portrayed in The Florida Project.
This was a special kind of stressful movie in a very specific way. It is hard to watch kids in such a poor situation, but especially through the eyes of the children. Everything seems so colorful and innocent, with the kids running freely down sun beaten streets without a care in the world, hustling for ice cream and climbing trees. Obviously we as adults see the terrifying nature of this lifestyle, children growing up unsupervised with parents who have no permanent address, use the kids to hock knockoff perfume, and in the worst scenarios, host men to make extra money while Moonee is in the bathroom.
Through the stress, Willem Dafoe is a beacon of stability. Not a usual role for him, but he was one of the only real authority figures in the movie who looked out for the kids when he could. He would scold them, protect them, and did what he could to be lenient with Moonee’s mother, Halley, to an extent.
The casting of the kids was spot on, I am convinced director Sean Baker just put them in front of the camera at some points and said “okay, talk about your breakfast”. Or potentially these are just the best child actors, ever.
Considering trashy colorful facades is potentially my least favorite aesthetic, this film is beautiful. Up until the credit roll, I was hooked with his lush, nearing self indulgent shots. Baker exposes a paper town for what it truly is, but in the reality there is a strange, intriguing splendor. I am excited to see what he does next, because this was an incredible triumph. 9.5/10