The Florida Project

The Florida Project ★★★★

“Do you know why this is my favorite tree? Because it’s tipped over and still growing.”

A candy-colored, sun-soaked delight from beginning to end, The Florida Project is a euphoric ode to childhood innocence/imagination and the resilience of the American underclass. Director Sean Baker (Tangerine), gracefully and empathetically observing the ecosystem of the impoverished community on the margins of the Magic Kingdom (simultaneously a symbol of American wealth and wonder), tracks a ragtag group of energetic 6-year-olds, their well-meaning, week-to-week living guardians, and their motel manager played with seemingly infinite kindness and elegance by Willem Dafoe. The vibrant cinematography by Alexis Zabe echoes the children’s sense of curiosity, discovering pockets of beauty in just about anything—dumpsters, rundown knock-off concessions, abandoned housing projects all radiate adventure and imagination. It’s a lovely visual sentiment that coincides with the film’s more moving later developments of tacit community contracts (see: Dafoe’s sense of protection for his marginalized tenants) and the resourcefulness needed to stay afloat in systems of class-oppression. It’s also worth noting that there will be very few things this year as beautiful and heart-breaking as this film’s coda: a sudden, last-minute burst of unhinged energy the camera struggles to contain as two best friends with nothing to lose bullet their way towards Cinderella Castle. Tipped over and still growing.


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