By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Sean Baker’s made a career out of docudramatizing a side of America that Hollywood ignores completely- the African street peddlers in Times Square, the transvestite prostitutes of the Sunset Strip, and now the motel homeless living decidedly unmagical lives in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom.
Score a point for realism, though.
The Florida Project follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her ne’er-do-well friends as they live a carefree childhood without understanding the harsher realities that surround them.
Calling Moonee’s life unmagical is sheerly a matter of perspective, of course, and Baker cannily chooses hers and her playmates’. Through their eyes, and Alexis Zabe’s roving camera, the pastel motels and abandoned condos, the sky ablaze with sun setting on stripmall wasteland, the streetlight-dotted parking lots… well, there is magic here.
This is anything but a fantasy, though (or at least until Baker’s ready to rip your heart in two with it). As Moonee plays, the almost off-puttingly real Bria Vinaite as her barely more than a child herself in both age and sense of responsibility hustles in any way she can to make rent and keep them fed and free. Her fuck the world attitude does her few favors, though.
Willem Dafoe of all people plays the spiky but compassionate manager of the Magic Kingdom motel, a man who walks a fine line of caring for his residents and making sure they don’t fuck things up for everybody. You’ve never seen him like this and the way he integrates so seamlessly with a cast of near entirely nonprofessional actors speaks to the incredible work he does.
“Huggable” is not an adjective one associates with Willem Dafoe.
While Baker’s sympathies throughout his career clearly lie with the downtrodden, he sometimes tips his hand a bit too much. His characters are part of a vicious circle capably implied by his very focus on their lives, but all of them make a series of choices that help perpetuate it, which can only be read as selfish when innocents in their orbit are pulled down with them. This is what DCFS is for.
The Florida Project is glorious and tragic and terribly and wonderfully authentic. De Sica would be proud.
The Florida Project (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for shenanigans
Take a Drink: for Disney references
Take a Drink: for baths
Take a Drink: for helicopters
Take a Drink: for fights
Do a Shot: for heartbreak