Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is an unflinching look at the gay abandon of childhood amidst a milieu comprising of adults trying to survive against all the odds. We run through some of its salient features in The Florida Project film review.
Bobby (Willem Dafoe) is a manager at The Magic Castle, an Orlando motel where carefree Moonee stays with her impetuous mother, Halley. Although Halley tries her best to make ends meet, we see her going down the wrong lane. For the most part, Moonee spends her summer frolicking around with her friends. As they play pranks, Bobby watches over them. For him, it isn’t the kids who pose as much of a problem as do the grownups. As he tries to keep their activities in check, one of them in particular, Halley, is a constant concern for him as she is unable to pay her rent on time.
Living on the fringe isn’t easy and poses challenges that make it hard for all but the strongest to slug it out. Halley frays under pressure after losing her job as a waitress and indulges in unacceptable activities. As she goes down, we are mere spectators to her undoing, just like Bobby.
The Florida Project portrays people living on the margins of American society. Their daily struggle for survival at the wayside motels that are just a stone’s throw from the mecca of entertainment, The Disney World Resort, is there for the viewer to imbibe.
The movie starts off slowly, taking time to build up the atmosphere. As the second half kicks in, the pace gradually picks up and the narrative zooms into its two main characters, Halley and Moonee. Some might argue that the movie takes too much time without engaging in character building or sufficiently progressing the narrative forward. Indeed, the film could have been 15 to 20 minutes shorter. With some nifty editing, it might have had a more streamlined look.
Willem Dafoe is brilliant as the guardian of the motel who underneath his tough exterior is kind-hearted. Brooklynn Prince as Moonee is a revelation. She charms you with her innocence, and even her sneaky pranks don’t bother you. On the other hand, Bria Vinaite who plays her mother’s role is the star of the film. Her performance is so affecting that at times you feel repulsed by her sheer brazenness and lack of concern for her child’s future.
The Florida Project is not everyone’s cup of tea. It requires a certain amount of patience to be able to navigate through the initial phase of this film. Only then can one truly reap the rewards of watching an expository movie on those living on the sidelines of American society.
If you like films that make you think and stay with you after the end credits, then The Florida Project is worth a watch. There is nothing earth-shattering that you will encounter here, only the satisfaction of having seen an intelligent piece of cinema.
The Florida Project film review rates it (3 / 5)
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The Florida Project film review was made possible courtesy the movie’s screening at Jio MAMI 19th Mumbai Film Festival with Star.