Indie favorite Sean Baker looks at life on the seedy fringes of Disney World through the eyes of a child.
Fresh off reaping praise for his 2015 film Tangerine, a film shot entirely with iPhones, director Sean Baker’s latest is more conventional in form, although its topic is anything but: The Florida Project portrays poverty as seen through the rosy tint of childhood innocence.
Just outside Disney World Orlando, the “happiest place on earth,” the temperamental yet charming six-year-old Moonee lives with her young and single mother Halley in a budget motel. While Halley struggles to make ends meet, Moonee and other neglected children declare their world of suburban desolation an adventure playground, with only the concerned motel manager (Willem Defoe) keeping a watchful eye. The vibrant candy-colored buildings stand in stark contrast to the underprivileged environment, giving the film a dreamlike feel despite its realism.
Brooklynn Kimberly Prince, who plays Moonee, adds authenticity with her impressive performance, while Defoe has scored an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Heavily influenced by The Little Rascals, comic shorts from the Great Depression, The Florida Project is a thoughtful modernization, engrossing the audience into a child’s magical world with somber themes.