Sunday, October 15th, 2017

The Florida Project

After Tangerine his quite remarkable sophomore film was the most talked-about and exciting premiere at Sundance two years, there was an enormous air of expectation to see how Sean Baker would fare with his follow-up movie.  It turns out that there was no need to worry at all, and he ditched his Iphone 5’s and got behind a real camera again to make a very impressive The Florida Project which really confirms him as one of the most important filmmakers of his generation.

This is the tale of what Baker describes as the ‘hidden homeless’ that inhabit a shabby motel right in the shadows of Disney World in a part of Orlando that tourists would never want to linger. The residents are desperate people living on the edges of society and struggling each week just to pay the rent.

Baker tells his story mainly through the eyes of the young children who are left to their own resources to while away the long summer months when school is out. The ring leader is a six year old called Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who lives with her single-parent mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) covered in tattoos and sporting bright blue hair and who may qualify as the laziest stripper ever. Moonee adopts her mother’s fearless mouthy attitude with not just the other children, but with the adults too.

They are less like mother and daughter and more like sisters as Halley is very much like a child herself, and indulges an adoring Moonee in buying cheap tacky plastic jewelry, and eating bad-fast food and encouraging her to have burping competitions in public.

Of course Moonee gets into trouble dragging her chums with her, but being unsupervised all day long and with so many derelict buildings in their decaying neighborhood,  it is hardly surprising that it all gets out of hand.  As does Halley who without a job,  has to resort to illegal means to find the rent which will not just jeopardize her freedom, but that of Moonee’s too.

It is taken almost as a badge of honor that Halley is a bad mother, but despite all of their unconventional and outrageous behavior, she and Moonee make each other blissfully happy, and that is one of the main reasons why Baker makes it so much easier for us to empathize with their plight.

There is a scripted plot, but for most of the movie Baker makes us feel that we are in fact watching a cinema vérité documentary as there is such a convincing reality to all their rather hopeless lives.

All of his very talented cast are newbies and for the most part are untrained actors, but Baker has for once included a major player too. Willem Dafoe plays the world-weary Motel Manager who tries his best to be gruff with the kids, but he is in effect their biggest supporter, and discreetly acts like a benevolent father figure to all of them, including the adults.  It is a wonderful sensitive performance that successfully glues the rest together.

Baker, and his co-writer Chris Bergoch proved with Tangerine that he is a great observer and he demonstrates that once again.  Equally important is however is the fact that whilst he is sympathetic to the plight of the Halleys and Moonees of the world, he never ever patronizes them, and it is the respect that he accords people that so many in society would prefer not to know about, that makes this such an excellent and unmissable film. 


Posted by queerguru  at  17:39



Genres:  dramedy

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