Marcy Webb’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ken Loach style social realism about motherhood, the state and childhood; elements of neorealism, taking young talent and growing it; Sean Baker style iPhone cinematography and Californian sunsets and lens flares; Jacques Tati style of people moving across wide landscapes; a ‘Paper Moon’ story of a parent and daughter conning everyday people; a colour palette like few others; a Disney desire to reduce an entire country, continent and world into It’s a Small World: people in different areas of life, proud billboards advertising machine guns in the vicinity of children, diners and cheap knock-off merchandise, extravagent California orange globes, ice creams, capitalist economies fighting against humanity and common decency, trying to get by to survive
Baker builds such a detailed world set within the fringes and the liminal and forgotten (why would anyone want to make this film, and pitch it in a meeting?) that the dreams of an exploitative corporate behemoth - is neither contradicted nor invalidated by poverty. The dreams of a theme park - just out of reach but bringing happiness to millions, and driving a vast tourist economy - remains potent no matter the reality. Whatever issues of motherhood there are, ‘The Florida Project’ is about what childhood should be: playing and learning about the world, experiencing joy and the lure of rainbows. The magical realism and the vivid colours Baker uses never invalidates the reality of this world, or the reality of some of the most powerful performances by young actors. Willem Dafoe may seem to be in his least exciting roles, but his good nature makes it one of his best.
The monochrome guerilla filmmaking and paranoid visions of ‘Escape from Tomorrow’ has nothing on this