Director: Sean Baker
Stars: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe
After seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I said to myself, "I'm ready for Disney to start taking money directly from my paycheck every month." They technically already have, but the house that Mickey Mouse built is truly dominating the pop culture landscape. Thing is, you can't acknowledge their triumphs (and dominance) without looking at the destruction in their wake. That's where A24's The Florida Project comes in.
Taking place in a series of motels in the shadow of Disney World, we follow the life of a six-year-old girl who is too lit for words. Born to a mother who was no doubt not ready for the responsibility of being a parent, we watch as her life unfolds over a summer: she's making friends, she's panhandling, she's causing all kinds of mayhem. You know, kid shit. The child (magnificently played by Brooklynn Prince) is too (street) smart for her own good, but, only being six, isn't given the tools to handle what life is no doubt going to throw at her.
Prince isn't the only shining star in this film; Bria Vinaite plays her mother, who is scraping together just enough to get by and harming her child's future in the process. Both Prince and Vinaite excel in their breakout performances, and are the emotional crux of a film that also has a brilliant performance from Willem Dafoe, who plays the motel's manager, although he's truly more of a caretaker than any of the parents in this film.
The Florida Project is a film that will make you laugh as much as it makes you cry; it will puff your heart up with emotion, then rip it out of your chest and stomp all over it. Then it will drown it in spit and laugh at you for being hurt before patiently stitching you back up for a tremendous ending. It's real life, happening, every day, and feels like a documentary on how the ratchet, headline-grabbing side of Florida is born. —khal