Film Review – The Florida Project (2017)

Title: The Florida Project (2017)

Director: Sean Baker (Tangerine)

Cast: Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe

Plot: Young girl Moonee (Prince) spends her summer break running rampant with her friends in the surrounds of their motel accommodation set in the shadows of Disney World as her troubled mother Halley (Vinaite) and motel manager Bobby (Dafoe) watch on.

“I can always tell when adults are about to cry”

Review by Eddie on 29/01/2018

There’s a lot to like about Sean Baker’s newest critically lauded slice of the anti-American dream (Willem Dafoe, the discovery of Brooklyn Prince, the haunting vistas of seedy motel life), but this documentary-like experience that exists without a true narrative drive has a very big weight holding it back in the form of one of the most unlikable and detestable creations of 2017 – lazy, unlikable and terrible mother Halley.

Played by social media personality Bria Vinaite, Halley is the type of mother you wish you could slap and say “wake up to yourself” to, and while Vinaite therefore does a great job of portraying a mother unfit to raise a child or even look after herself (just as Baker obviously wanted it to be), her ever-present appearance in The Florida Project makes Baker’s largely aimless feature an often hard to endure experience.

You understand that Halley is supposed to be this down on her luck trailer trash-like mother, but with zero backstory on how Halley became the vile and irredeemably depressing persona we get to be with and with her character quite blatantly not thinking about bettering her lifestyle or that of her daughter’s, Halley is not someone deserving of our attention.

Baker’s clearly aiming for realism here and to shine a light on America’s rampant unemployed and underprivileged, but after an hour or so of Halley’s frequently unlikable and feral behavior, the shine of The Florida Project’s many noteworthy elements begin to be washed away by having to endure Halley’s fiercely grotesque comings and goings.

When Baker focuses his dreamlike (or equally nightmarish) attention to Prince’s energetic young girl Moonee and her unsupervised adventures around her motel, set in the shadows of Disney World, or on Willem Dafoe’s kindly motel manager Bobby, The Florida Project shines as a humanly real character driven slice of realism, that captures a raw and powerful portrait of America that many other filmmaker’s could only hope to attain.

Had Baker allowed more screen-time to the savvy debut of Prince or the pitch perfect execution of Dafoe, The Florida Project would’ve become the film many have unjustly labelled it to be, even if it’s still one of 2017’s most unique low-budget and independent offerings.

Final Say –

Much of The Florida Project is great but the despicable creation that is Halley holds this visually captivating and hauntingly real feature back from greatness, but with Dafoe and Prince working wonders in their roles, Baker’s film is still worth checking into.

3 1/2 soda hunting strangers out of 5

17 responses to “Film Review – The Florida Project (2017)

  1. Good review, this is one those films I had put on the list but was not sure – think I am persuaded to have a look

  2. I enjoyed reading your review. Lots of kids hate their terrible mothers, so I wasn’t troubled by that. I was concerned about how clean, tidy, washed and fresh-faced the kids were. My experience of poor kids in Florida proves they really don’t look this cared for and looked after. Willem Dafoe is terrific and I truly believed his performance.

    • Dafoe was amazing! I really thought it’s one of his very best turns, in any other year would be a shoe-in for best supporting actor at the Oscar’s.
      I just found it personally hard to enjoy or even watch the film when the mum was on screen, she was just downright disgusting.

      • Maybe you and I share the same good luck of having mothers who cared about us? I’ve just notice my (rather interesting) typo. I meant to write that lots of kids love their dreadful mothers and, further, won’t hear any criticism about them, even when others suffer. I agree with you that she’s a hard character to care about. If her clothes weren’t so ironed and freshly-cleaned, I’d probably be annoyed. The biggest fantasy element of this movie is the number of working laundry facilities in a welfare motel.

  3. I too thought that the mother was despicable but I thought her performance was so real and captures how a lot of mothers are. I think I was more able to swallow her horribleness by the fact that the film shows that she really does love her daughter – though it’s SOOO frustrating that she doesn’t do anything to try and better their life

    • Yeh it really irked me that, I just wish she had had a tiny bit more growth as a character, if anything she just got worse and worse and after an hour or so it just became to much!
      I would’ve loved to see more growth from her character or just lessoned her screentime all-together.

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