Friday, November 17, 2017

The Florida Project

As the director, writer and producer for The Florida Project, Sean Baker continues his work as a fiercely independent filmmaker.  “If one change was made in the movie that was out of my control, it would be very difficult for me to accept that as my own.”

The Florida Project follows several weeks in the life of 8-year-old Moonie (Brooklynn Prince), her twenty-something mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), and the other residents of their squalor-like Orlando residence, including the manager Bobby Hicks (Willem Dafoe).  

Moonie a leads carefree and unsupervised life wandering with friends among pink, yellow, and green houses and shoulder-length grass.  They beg for money at the Twisty Treat to buy an ice cream cone, which they all share, ransack abandoned houses, spit on parked cars, tromp to the nearby woods during a rainstorm.  

Unable to find work at a restaurant, Halley resorts accosting Disney World tourists to buy knockoff perfume and reselling stolen merchandise.  

Bobby Hicks has his hands full as he collects late rent, evicts tenants, monitors unsupervised children, fends off child predators, paints, and disciplines nude sunbathers. 

TFP brings an almost entirely new cast to the screen.  Baker found Bria Vinaite on Instagram (he liked her for her tattoos), and cast Florida Natives to play the children.  

Seasoned actor Dafoe brings his A-game to the role as world-wise Bobby.   

Scenes flow organically and the entire movie feels like an unstructured play-date, with a refreshing lack of Hollywood Polish.  

Baker's too sympathetic portrayal of Moonie as an abysmally irresponsible mother, for whom he gives no back-story, detracts from the story somewhat.  And Dafoe is almost Messianic in his sensitivity to the plight of his residents. 

That being said, after the curtains fell on the last scene (spoiler alert--filmed inside the United Kingdom on Baker's iPhone without permission) and the credits rolled, I felt dejected, as I wanted the story go on and on and on. 

Best movie I've seen all year. 

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