The Florida Project, the new highly-anticipated film from Sean Baker (Tangerine), stars Brooklynn Prince (in a breakout role) as a young girl in Orlando, Florida, who spends her summer engaging in mischief and going on adventures with her ragtag friends while the adults around her struggle with hard times living in a motel on the outskirts of Walt Disney World.
In 2015, Baker made headlines when he shocked audiences with his low-budget flick “Tangerine”, after revealing after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival that the film had been shot entirely with an iPhone 5s. While TFP was shot on standard 35mm film, it still retains both the visual aesthetics and genuine spirit from that film. In this hilarious, and deeply moving film, Baker is able to explore a part of society that is often ignored, those on the very brink of poverty. Moonee, our 6-year old protagonist, doesn’t understand her mothers struggles, she’s oblivious to all the crime and danger surrounding her home. It’s this non-judgmental and honest portrayal that Baker is known for, and here it rings true more than ever. It’s not often a filmmaker comes around with such passion and an impeccable eye for detail, and paired with some outstanding performances (Willem Dafoe co-stars as the manager of the “Magic Castle Inn” and shines, as does newcomer, Bria Vinaite, as Moonee’s struggling, foul-mouthed mother.)
There’s nothing more to be said about this film that hasn’t already been addressed by the dozens of critics who adore it (there’s already talks of Academy Award Nominations for both Director and Picture), and count me as one of them. Not only is “The Florida Project” expertly crafted and stunningly real, but it’s perhaps the most “American” film to be released in years. Filmmakers like Baker, who shine a light on people not often discussed (‘Tangerine’ focused on two transgender-prostitutes living on the borders of Los Angeles), aren’t given as many opportunities to have their voice heard, and it’s not often films like this are made. Not only is it outstanding, and completely deserving of your money, but it’s the kind of film that needs our support to succeed.
The Florida Project is now showing at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, FL and will soon expand wider next weekend.