In his follow-up to the award-winning Tangerine, Sean Baker dives deep into a community living on the margins of Floridian society. In the process, he gives us some of the most unforgettable characters in the cinema this year: 22-year-old Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her six-year-old daughter, Moonee (Brooklyn Prince).
Halley and Moonee live in the Magic Castle, a cheap motel near an Orlando freeway. A stone’s throw from Disney World, the theme park might as well be on Mars for this mother and daughter. Halley, in some ways a child herself, struggles to keep a cheap roof over their heads and sugary cereals on their table. In many ways an unreliable mom, she’s also a good one, giving Moonee all the love she can. And her care reflects in Moonee’s vibrancy… There’s security behind the charisma with which the six-year-old grabs each day by the tail, corralling her pals to explore abandoned buildings, grift ice cream, and prank the motel staff, most notably the ever-present hotel manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Set almost entirely in and around the motel, The Florida Project finds drama in its nooks and crannies. As the kids go off on adventures, it captures each scene in a rich palette, using the bright colors of the motel, 99 cent stores, and an ice cream shop to create a storybook feel. As a result, what happens isn’t burdened by false story arcs. There are tensions in the characters’ lived situations, and clashes of will that gradually explode into a manic and beautiful and perfectly imperfect finale you’re unlikely to forget.
(USA / 2017 / Written and Directed by Sean Baker)
R / 115 mins.