Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.
Two years ago filmmaker Sean Baker burst onto the independent scene with his frenetic shot-on-an-iPhone transgender dramedy Tangerine. If you’ve seen that raw look at an LA subculture you’ll know what you’re in for with his follow up.
Just as sprawling and unflinching, The Florida Project has Sean and co-writer Chris Bergoch embracing their slice of life unfocused narrative again which may be frustrating for some. But if you get on board, the day-to-day lives of the ragtag inhabitants of this budget motel and it’s manager (Willem Dafoe) are a rewarding watch.
Dafoe is obviously having great fun not playing a villain for once, playing the craggy manager with a heart of gold and could easily nab a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. But it’s seven-year-old unknown Brooklynn Prince who steals the show with a breakout performance as the mischievous Moonie, and could usurp Anna Pacquin as the youngest ever to win a little gold man.
She forms a rebellious trio, and their unsupervised run-ins with Dafoe and many others will infuriate and warm your heart in equal measure. Half the time you want to throttle them, but it’s just a sign of how authentic this snapshot of a childhood on the wrong side of the tracks is. The fact that it’s in the shadow of the happiest place on earth just makes it that much more devastating.
She’s an topsy turvy watch - first you’re caught up in the childlike wonder of Moonie and her mates, then the adult struggles bring you crashing down to earth. But no matter the lack of narrative structure it’s a slice of modern American life that needs to be seen.
DVD Releases: 25th April 2018
Duration: 111 minutes
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto
Director: Sean Baker (Tangerine)
Willem DeFoe spent a week living in the filming area before production in order to immerse himself in the life of the characters & master the nuances of the regional dialect.
In the original script, Willem DeFoe's character Bobby was meant to have a brother who helped out at the hotel. However, as filming progressed, the parent-child relationship theme manifested itself more clearly, and the decision was made for him instead to have a son. Caleb Landry Jones was cast only two weeks prior to shooting his scenes.