THE FLORIDA PROJECT is a cute yet heartbreaking little independent film that is getting some serious Oscar buzz right now. It’s about a young 6 year old girl, her friends, and her morally questionable mother living in a run down project that is managed by the fantastic Willem Dafoe. You may have seen previews for it. It is playing in limited theaters right now but should soon expand. The movie shows what can only be described as the “charming side” of poverty while still trying to show that modern America needs to be way more responsible than it actually is. While I quite liked the movie, very enjoyable to be sure, and that final little scene almost made me shed a tear, and I wouldn’t mind it being nominated, it is a movie that is hard imagining watching more than once, as a lot of the choices/actions by the mother and the kids is really hard to watch.
The reason why the movie is so good because of the acting. Willem Dafoe (who I would love to see nominated for this) is phenomenal as the manager Bobby, who is the one bright spot in this dark and foreboding place. He has to put up with bullshit from the residents each and everyday, but he does so with grace and class. Even though he’s harking down on all these rules and at points seems like he’s had it and doesn’t care, he not only looks after the kids from afar (he’s really the only positive role model around) but he tries to best to at times bend the rules to make situations not any worse than they already are. It is Dafoe’s best performance to date, just watch the scene where he confronts a old stranger getting a little too close to the children playing, it’s a classic.
But the story is truly about the mother, Halley, and her 6 year old, Moonee, played fantastically for a child actor by Brooklyn Prince. Prince is so good, that it felt like children acting like children, especially ones who don’t have a great upbringing at all. And Bria Vinaite as Halley the mom, is so damn good you just want to go through the screen and wring her neck for some of the shit that she pulls. It’s infuriating at times.
I don’t want to spoil any of the movie, but some of the shenanigans that the daughter and the mom end up getting into, it’s really hard not to cover your eyes with your hand. Not just what they do, but how they act, makes you wonder, how did we as human beings, end up sometimes being as bad as this? I loved how the movie though has these dark lives under such bright visuals, but the darker they get, the darker the visuals get, the cinematography in this is breathtaking to be sure and should be included in the list of nominees come January.
And the last scene, with Prince’s acting, is just really touching and heartbreaking, and the ending, while not making sense to some, made perfect sense to me. We live in a harsh world and sometimes you have to pay the piper with some of your actions. If these movie teaches you anything is that everyone needs to be good role models to their kids and if you can’t be, find someone who can. I completely recommend watching this movie, even if I can only watching once. It’s a beautiful sad film that is not only enjoyable, but teaches a lot of life lessons without trying to shove them in your face. I appreciated that.