The Florida Project is set over a single summer and tells the story of a precious six year old as she and her friends set out to cause mischief over the motel area where they live. Her mother, meanwhile, struggles with her life. This is an independent film from Sean Baker, who previously directed Tangerine (2015), one of the first films to be shot entirely on a mobile phone. While the characters are certainly not the happiest or most pleasant, the movie does have an interesting vibe, and tells a non-traditionally structured story. Although, I didn’t adore the movie, it certainly kept me engaged throughout.
The Florida Project doesn’t really have a story per se. Instead, we see the main characters go through their daily routines, mostly in one specific location which is a motel in Florida named Futureworld. The lack of a traditional story structure didn’t bother me. In fact, I kind of liked the mundane, everyday life approach. It made the film seem more realistic. The cinematography helps, too, going between being “grayish looking”, and then having a few moments of more “colorful” inside shots which fit the film’s tone quite-well. This, overall, helped to give the film a sense of reliability and, for the most part, worked for me.
There aren’t too many known actors in this films. Much like Tangerine, it is a very independently produced film, and, as a result, it features a lot of newcomers, most of whom are making their film debuts. The best known actor in the film is Willem Dafoe, playing Bobby, the motel owner. Everything in the film seems to constantly annoy Bobby: from the kids; to the mother; to a huckster who claims he wants a soda in one scene; and so on. The entire world seems to just be against Bobby, and Dafoe responds with properly pissed-off reactions. He’s not taking any of this “crap”, and it’s good stuff to watch. For the child actors, we all have a bunch of newcomers, and if these kids decide to do more films, I could see them having successful acting careers. Sean Baker knows how to direct child actors, and while they’re basically “little monsters”, especially because they destroy so much stuff in the film, unlike many child actors who are usually accused of being “too cute”, or “bland”, these kids feel very natural, young and wide-eyed. The mother often comes off like a terrible person, but there are moments where she shows some heart. In particular, I quite liked the scene where she and her daughter, Moonee, run around in the rain. It was a very pleasant moment in the film, which overall, didn’t have too many.The Florida Project had a minuscule budget, and production-wise, it isn’t anything special, but its “everyday life” tone fits very well. There’s no musical score, no popping visuals, and not a big budget film, but, nevertheless, I very much appreciated its simplicity and non-traditional story structure. If you’re into art-house movies with relatable themes and characters, no matter how “depressing” they might get, then, I highly recommend this film.