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Film review: 'The Florida Project'

Excellent acting and clean cinematography save this melancholy film from becoming too heavy.

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  • | 8:42 p.m. November 6, 2017
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Director Sean Baker's new film, "The Florida Project," delves into a sad slice of American life. One in which dreams don't come true and children are forced to live in budget motels.

The action takes place near Disney World on hotel row where kids who live there will, most likely, never set foot in the famed theme park. But six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), and her friends make every day an adventure while on summer break.

Their single mothers, on the other hand, try desperately to make ends meet. Moonee's mom, Halley (Bria Vinaite), is a low-level grifter who, at times, resorts to prostitution to keep them afloat. She's a tough cookie but loves her daughter above all else. The feeling is mutual for Moonee who revels in making the very best of a bad situation. Aside from a foul mouth, her outrageous and precocious behavior is as hilarious as it is endearing.

Willem Dafoe, as the motel manager, Bobby, is also rough around the edges but extremely kind and generous to the poverty-stricken children who reside in his domain. The lack of supervision on the part of the kids' mothers is most often provided by the ever-watchful Bobby. 

Sean Baker once again teams up with fellow screenwriter Chris Bergoch ("Tangerine" and "Starlet") to vividly explore life on the margins of society. Their fresh, unbridled approach to storytelling is the foundation upon which this engaging film soars. They manage to take seeming unremarkable events and mesh them into a treatise on America's shortcomings. 

Brilliant dialogue, stellar acting and crisp cinematography save "The Florida Project" from becoming too heavy. It's easy to relish in the children's creativity and totally natural manner in which they deliver their lines. When Moonee and Halley dance together in a sunlit rain shower with open mouths, it's a joyous and uplifting moment to witness.

Nothing of any real consequence takes place in this insightful film until the end. When Moonee is about to be taken away by Child Services, she flees to the magical world just outside of her own. And there just happens to be a castle off in the distanced beckoning her to enter. 


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