The Florida Project (15)

Oct 31, 2018
Cranbrook Film Society

‘A superbly sympathetic portrait of life on the margins of Disneyland America’. Mark Kermode, Observer

With a remarkable young cast and a fine performance from Willem Dafoe as a hotel manager, the film is a perceptive snapshot of the impoverished American underclass: uncomfortable viewing at times, but funny and touching.

Sean Baker | USA | 2017 | 109 mins | 15


“The Florida Project “is maverick American film producer author Sean Baker’s follow up to “Tangerine” a film, which was about sex workers in America.

Baker is part anthropologist part guerilla filmmaker; he uses improvised dialogue and for the most part untrained actors to people his landscapes of American ordinariness.

Whilst “Florida Project” is more conventional in it’s approach than” Tangerine” using 35 mill film, until the last 5 minutes which is shot on an I phone, and a trained celebrity actor William Dafoe, Baker uses untrained actors and real locations as the setting for his story about the adventures of a six year old girl Moonee living in rented accommodation next to Disneyland. Much of the dialogue is improvised, even the helicopters that fly across the screen are from a heliport next to the real motel that served as the set and all the events depicted are based on true stories. This is the story of the invisible the real America parked just next door to the tawdry American dream that is Disneyland.

The central theme of the narrative is contained in the title “The Florida Project” a name once associated with the early Disneyland in Orlando Florida but which has come to mean ghetto for blue collar workers on welfare, a world of drugs, single mothers, prostitution and laminated plastic poverty, for all that the motel is called” The Magic Castle” and painted a sickly Disney purple.

However, this is not just a film about misery but about children’s ability to survive and preserve their innocence in their own imagination. Nobody is judged and there is far more kindness and humour, however misplaced, than cruelty or intentional evil. There is indeed magic in the adventures of Moony and her friends, more redolent of Huck Finn than Oliver Twist, as they grapple with the characters that live in the purple jungle that surrounds them.

That world of a child’s imagination is pitted against the harsh reality of Moonee’s mother; good hearted single parent, trailer trash, a woman who uses everything and anything to provide for her daughter and who faces daunting odds with resilience and ingenuity.

For his part William Dafoe plays an avuncular world-weary motel manager who has seen everything yet still stands for a practical decency where possible. Dafoe won a few awards as best supporting actor but one senses that director Sean Baker’s uncompromising, if charming, depiction of the American dream as a dishonest dystopia propelled by a cynical Hollywood upset the powers that be. The film was largely ignored by the mainstream…….as tends to be the way with classics.

Philip Bret-Day


            Weighted vote 72.95%