Directed by Sean Baker
46-year-old American filmmaker Sean Baker seemed to have found his own voice through a mesmerizing cinema-verité that concurrently fascinates, disturbs, and ultimately infuriates.
If his masterwork “Tangerine”, entirely shot on iPhone 5s, was packed with a mix of punchy reality and funny momentum, his new drama, “The Florida Project”, captured on 35mm film, leaves the humor aside, effectively depicting human degradation and parental negligence with the same raw intensity.
The animated rhythm of 'Celebrate' by Earth, Wind & Fire, together with the sight of three little kids fooling around and upsetting the people of their neighborhood, passed the misleading idea that this could be a feel-good movie focused on childhood. Don’t even think about it! This film is about the immense suffering that some reckless and negligent parents can cause to their children.
With a deft command of the camera, Baker takes us to the light purple-colored Magic Castle motel in Kissimmee, Florida, where the lazy twenty-something Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her six-year-old daughter, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), currently live. Halley not only doesn’t have a job, she doesn’t want to find one. She prefers to remain in her room, indolently smoking weed, while her kid is left unsupervised, frequently misbehaving with her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera), Dicky (Aiden Malik), and Jancey (Valeria Cotto).
She gets some food from her friend Ashley (Mela Murder), Scooty’s mother and upstairs neighbor, as a payment for watching for her son while she’s at work. Ashley would never imagine how vulgar, rancorous, and cunning her friend is, until they cut relations due to an incident involving the children.
Obviously, the weekly rent is a constant problem for Halley, who resorts to illegal schemes to get the money. Huckstering cheap perfumes to tourists, offering sexual services online, and stealing her clients whenever possible, are all part of her deal.
Despite fond of Halley and her kid, Bobby (Willem Defoe), the motel manager, is many times forced to impose his authority. But she's not his only problem since he has to deal with trafficking in some rooms, sneaky guys trying to maliciously approach the kids outside, and the stubborn Gloria (Sandy Kane), who loves sunbathing topless near the pool. Not to mention taking care of mattresses impregnated with bedbugs.
Extremely absorbing, mostly because of the strange acting rapport between Vinaite and the young Prince, “The Florida Project” mirrors the immaturity, irresponsibility, and rudeness of a lost person, whose terrible example for her child, both behavior and language-wise, is sad and vexatious.
The script was cleverly co-written by Baker and his habitual collaborator Chris Bergoch, while the briskness of the editing, credited to the filmmaker, felt a bit tiresome at times without compromising the effectiveness of the story or the essence of its message.