hayden’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Florida Project clings to hope as the final capability of humanity. Through the exploration of social failure and this film's willingness to cross all lines, it is an intelligently told story that will compromise your comfort and dilute your confidence.
The rose-coloured glasses. These colours are mesmerising and have no right to be this beautiful when dealing with such high-intensity subject matter. The pervasive and un-waning innocence of Moonee's childhood gives the character a near-perfect element of dramatic irony for the audience to eat up and is the perfect conductor for our look-in. By making this film at its most gorgeous when the leading lady is most joyous is a trick I absolutely love, especially when there's an air of subtlety to it. Willem Dafoe's Bobby is just incredible, as always, yet I feel the fact he's the only big-name star of this production means he automatically becomes an undeserved salient statue. That's not to say there isn't a reason for this; the manager of the Magic Castle Inn is the sweetest entity around, a character that tries with all of his power to be a charitable saint and a challenged caretaker. For us to be drawn to him, by virtue of both Defoe's acting ability and household title, is an obvious choice, yet it brings the honesty of the situations at hand even further to the front. There is not a single bad performance to be seen and these children specially are remarkable. Halley feels like a genuinely troubled person that just can't get anything right and is being suffocated by the one thing that brings her any real joy, which is such a frightening reality to so many young people.
The messages here are quite obvious, yet The Florida Project is just such a consummate piece that has almost everything going for it. The breathtaking cinematography, lighting, screenplay, locations, ending, subtleties; everything is a part of the much bigger, much more important picture. As is the case with a lot of films of this genre, the pacing does tend to play a part in the level of enjoyment. With a structure similar to the likes of Lady Bird, it really is only in the last 45-30 minutes that anything of any emotional scale actually happens. This is as forgivable her as it is in that film, it just makes watching a little bit harder. Thankfully though, there are numerous satisfying, fun, shocking and humorous scenes mixed in with the, not-so-much drudgery, but sameness of the rest of The Florida Project.
This is an eye-opening piece that is as moving as it is visually stimulating and is exactly what I hoped it would be. The visceral realities on show are at a boiling point even now and writer/director Baker is clearly invested in the gravity of the issue. If Disneyworld is the land of hopes and dreams, the realm where anything is possible, then what does that make America? Surely there isn't room for two utopias?