After seeing this movie three times, I need no more convincing. The Florida Project is undoubtedly the best movie of 2017 thus far. The first 5-star review for Flick Fans, this film is written and directed by low-budget miracle worker Sean Baker. Inspiration, heartbreak, and essence of youth, are the words which best describe this story of destitute kids who inhabit hopeless motels in sight of Disney World’s nightly fireworks.
Set at the Magic Castle Motel in Orlando, Florida, the film centers on 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), who lives there with her problematic mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), while loafing away her summer with close friends who reside on the floor beneath her.
The man who oversees the premise that these youngsters call home, is a character named Bobby (Willem Dafoe), who consistently tolerates the whimsical wrongdoings of Moonee and her friends, while displaying much more patience than he probably should. Dafoe, in perhaps the greatest performance in his career, should be considered the front-runner for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ at next year’s Academy Awards.
This remarkably difficult balancing act, where Baker presents the world of these children as his primary focus- with scenes of scampering through fields, playtime in different rooms and antics involving everything from ice cream and spitting on cars, take on a measure of surreal grandeur. Keeping the camera low, fixated to the perspective of its little protagonists, we come to realize that even amid hardship and tragedy, there can always be joy and happiness found if you so allow it.
These jubilant little rascals, often as happy as they are scrappy, help separate this picture from many other depressing Sundance social-issue films. In one of the most amazing, heart-breaking endings I have ever beheld, The Florida Project makes you feel like Moonee’s growing up in the most magical place on Earth, because to her…that’s exactly what it is.
By Brandon Colón