The Florida Project

The Florida Project ★★★½

I bet you've already figured out the pun in the title, but I'm going to start this off by going over it because it took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to get it. "The Florida Project" was Disney's code name for Disney World while it was being built, but a "project" is slang for a poor area of housing in town. Therefore, this movie takes place in a Florida project.

I can see the appeal it has as a hangout movie. Not much happens in the plot, it just follows the aimless life of six-year-old girl Moonee living in a slum apartment house, with former convict mother Halley doing whatever she can to make ends meet. The irony is that they live within spitting distance of Disney World, the place where dreams come true.

The film is shot in a handheld style and combined with the focus on people in poverty, it reminded me a bit of the neorealist movies from postwar Italy. That's augmented by the amateur cast (save the great Willem Dafoe), but the impressive performances from the kids are a revelation. Brooklynn Prince is a future star, I hope she gets more roles in big movies.

The movie was shot on film, as evidenced by the multiple imperfections that kept popping up on the print. That is, except for the distracting digital look to the final scene where the characters run into Disney World, clearly because they shot it surreptitiously without Disney's permission.

Speaking of, I didn't really like the abrupt nature of the ending. Also, I feel the film would have felt more authentic if a woman wrote and directed it, as opposed to two white men. Also, the plight of the poor mother doesn't seem to be as sympathetic since we never see her try to make an honest living. But the poverty of the protagonist, Moonee, who is not in control of the situation, is genuine. Three and a half stars.

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