The Florida Project 12.11.17
Like Harry Potter and the Enid Blyton stories, The Florida Project is partly a world seen from the perspective of children. Around them on the sun-drenched strip of cheap motels and garish junk food cafes, little girls and boys play together, are noisy, and seem not to realize the challenges faced by the adults. Providing a detached, grown-up perspective is Willem Defoe's motel manager, constantly fixing things and dealing with stuff.
It's an inspired setting, a bright purple building just outside the dreamy excess of Disneyworld. The heat plays its part, low-income tenants appear like prisoners to the sun, with curtains drawn in their cramped dwellings as they watch TV while munching away on pizza or waffles.
As the film continues, some adult perspectives grow stronger. The mixture of helplessness and defiance of the trashy young mother, Halley. Her daughter, Moonee, is the star of the film, but Willem Defoe's everyman, Bobby, adds welcome humanity. He's running a business and is wonderfully devoted to doing his job, but he's got an antennae for bullshit, and for trouble. The scene when he catches an apparent paedophile near the children's playground is one of several moments of tension and poignancy. He's always on the lookout for people's welfare.Of the story itself, the young mother's life increasingly spirals into trouble as the weekly payments of rent become impossible. We get a glimpse of Disneyworld at the end, a place I always dreamed of as a child, and perhaps it's that kind of place better imagined than visited. Ultimately, this slice-of-life representation complements director Sean Baker's Tangerine, about the seedy side of life on the strip of a glamorous American location. I'd call The Florida Project less entertaining and ultimately less uplifting than Baker's other work - too many bad things happen in this film for me. Yet it's also a vivid projection of sobering realities that will leave you with images to reflect on a long time after.