Florida Project is a film that rings true. Not because I have some insight into people living on the economic edge of society in a beat up hotel but because it reminds me of Florida. I recall, as middle class little kids in the 70s, before video games and cable television, before parents micromanaging their kid's lives, what kids did are what the kids DO in this movie. Kids create a world, they share, the do stupid things, they destroy stuff.
That is what ALL kids do. These kids opt for their only option for entertainment, their minds and the world that surrounds them. We see a lot of this from their perspective. You can imagine the Orlando-area tourist traps re-imagined via the minds of small kids.
This is a slice of life from a world we don't want to know about or that we immediately judge. I could almost SMELL the judgement coming up from the theater where I saw it (full of well-off old white people who no doubt read about the movie in the New Yorker). There is drinking, there is weed, there is prostitution, there are predators but this film never dwells on the ugly nor shows it in any prurient way. We infer it. Good for director, Sean Baker, for this take in a film environment that favors the graphic. We don't always need that.
The film doesn't romanticize any of this but instead opts to show the people here are humans with real hearts and who care but also live in a reality where you move on from your friends when that friendship endangers your children. A place where kids look after themselves or rely on a broader definition of family for protection (a hotel manager, for instance).
There is a hint of magic via the children's perspective but the realism here is far from magical. I wish this would be more than a movie. It COULD be a call to action. It won't be but it should be.The entire time I watched this film I kept thinking of the evils of capitalism--as all the aged rich white people around me (yeah, that is who they were, I saw this in the North Chicago burbs) harumphed and giggled. Some thought the ending, child's fantasy, was HILARIOUS and laughed aloud. These were grey people in their 60s. One old couple sat there waiting through the credits because there might be "something after"....I was like "Yeah, fucking Loki and Thor show up and save the day!"
The acting in this film is so good you feel like you are watching people in their real lives. Willem Defoe could easily be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Bria Vinaite and child actress, Brooklynn Prince would not be out of place as nominees either (I would leave it to the Academy to determine the category).
There is a whiff of both Moonlight and Beast of the Southern Wild in this movie--not necessarily because of any content but due to its originality. I haven't written a word on films for years and this movie made me begin again.