Tim Curry’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film Movement: Italian NeoRealism (Choose your own)
I know this isn't Italian, but Sean Baker was inspired by a lot of those films when making this and it was on the list of choices so fuck it.
This film really continuously grew on me as it went along. I began to appreciate the trashy landscaped expertly captured and the over-saturated bright colors that were everywhere in this film.
The whole film kind of feels like a subversion and the direct inverse of "The Happiest Place On Earth". Like previously mentioned, all the colors pop way too much to the point where everything looks fake. The motel is called "The Magic Castle" very similar to another magical place (they even have a scene joking about that); and even the title itself. The Florida Project was the working title and first name that "Disney World" was going to be. This is the gross afterbirth trying to scrape up any poor suckers it can get and does it extremely well.
I was particularly impressed with the child performances, especially considering they were supposed to be overly rowdy and annoying. That kind of character in the wrong hands can be unbelievably grading to an audience but they somehow never were. Willem Dafoe also brings a lot to the table with his understated performance. He never really had one "super oscar grabby" moment but was just a consistent good presence in the movie that brought a lot by doing seemingly only a little.
I know a lot of people have an issue with the ending but I honestly don't at all. I don't take that ending all too seriously and more interpret it as kind of a fantastical scene. Because of certain events in the movie, these two characters want to make the most of their limited time together and probably try to have as much fun before it gets all torn down. Though the event seen is unrealistic, I saw it as more of a pipe dream than something to take too literally, especially considering the trashy and impoverished vibe of the film.
I'm excited to see what Sean Baker does next, and I don't mean what the one sentence reviews (if you can call them that) he logs on letterboxd.