The Florida Project
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySean Baker
Written by
Produced by
  • Sean Baker
  • Chris Bergoch
  • Shih-Ching Tsou
  • Andrew Duncan
  • Alex Saks
  • Kevin Chinoy
  • Francesca Silvestri
Starring
CinematographyAlexis Zabe
Edited bySean Baker
Production
companies
Distributed byA24
Release dates
  • May 22, 2017 (2017-05-22) (Cannes)
  • October 6, 2017 (2017-10-06) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$2 million[2]
Box office$11.3 million[3]

The Florida Project is a 2017 American drama film directed by Sean Baker and written by Baker and Chris Bergoch. Starring Bria Vinaite, Brooklynn Prince, Willem Dafoe, with Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, and Caleb Landry Jones, in supporting roles, it was the first film appearance for many of the cast members. The slice of life plot focuses on the summertime adventures of a six-year-old girl who lives with her unemployed single mother in a budget motel in Kissimmee, Florida. Their struggle to make ends meet and stave off homelessness takes place in a surreal environment dominated by the nearby Walt Disney World, which was code named "The Florida Project" during its early planning stages.[4] It juxtaposes this with the local residents' less glamorous day-to-day lives, and also the children's joyful adventures as they explore and make the most of their surroundings, while remaining blissfully ignorant of the true hardships which their adult caretakers face.[5]

The film premiered in the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and was released theatrically in the United States by A24 on October 6, 2017. It was acclaimed by critics,[6] who, alongside praising Baker's direction, praised the performances; Vinaite earned particular acclaim for her performance, Prince's work would earn her a Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer, while Dafoe was adjudged to have given "his finest performance in recent memory",[7] receiving Best Supporting Actor nods at the Oscars, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Critics Choice Awards and BAFTA Awards.[8][9]

Both the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute chose the film as one of the top ten films of the year.[10][11]

Plot

Six-year-old Moonee lives with her young single mother Halley at Magic Castle Inn & Suites, a budget motel in Kissimmee, Florida, near Walt Disney World. She spends most of her summer days unsupervised and making mischief with her downstairs neighbor Scooty, who Halley is supposed to watch while his mother Ashley works at a diner, and Dicky, who lives at the nearby Futureland Inn. After Stacy, a new resident at Futureland, catches the trio spitting on her car, Dicky is grounded for a week, and Moonee and Scooty meet and befriend Stacy's granddaughter Jancey, who lives with Stacy.

Halley has recently lost her job as an exotic dancer after not wishing to do sexual acts for clients, but this now affects her eligibility for TANF benefits; she begins relying on food that Ashley gets from work. Struggling to pay rent, Halley begins selling knockoff perfume to tourists in the parking lots of up-market hotels. Meanwhile, Moonee and Scooty show Jancey around the neighborhood and teach her things, like how to get free ice cream by begging. The resident children regularly inconvenience Bobby, the manager of Magic Castle, such as when they shut off the motel's power, but he remains protective of them. Bobby's duties at Magic Castle include preparing expense reports, ejecting drug dealers, and doing repairs; he sometimes enlists the help of his son, Jack, with whom he has a tenuous relationship.

After Dicky's family relocate to New Orleans, Scooty finds a lighter in a box that Dicky's family left behind; he, Moonee, and Jancey start a fire at an abandoned condominium complex. Ashley gets the truth out of Scooty, after which she forbids him from hanging out with Moonee or Jancey; Ashley also stops talking to Halley.

Without the free food from Ashley, and with security guards beginning to bother her at the hotels, Halley's financial situation declines even further. She begins soliciting sex work online, keeping Moonee in the bathroom with loud music when she has a client. When Halley steals a client's Disney World resort passes to scalp them, the man later returns to demand his property back. Bobby, alerted by the loud arguing, scares him off but applies restrictions on unregistered guests in her motel room; he also warns Halley that he will evict her if the prostitution continues. Desperate, Halley approaches Ashley to apologize and ask for money. When Ashley criticizes Halley's sex work, Halley grabs Ashley and viciously beats her in front of Scooty.

The next day, DCF investigators show up and question Halley and Moonee separately about their lifestyle. In anticipation of another visit, Halley gives away her weed and has Moonee help clean their room. They go to a fancy hotel and have an extravagant meal, which Halley charges to a guest's room. When they return to Magic Castle, the investigators, having found evidence that Halley is doing sex work, are waiting with two police officers to take Moonee into foster care while they finish their inquiry. Not fully understanding what is happening, Moonee asks to say goodbye to Scooty, who lets slip that she is going to a new family. Moonee becomes agitated and runs away from the investigators to bid Jancey goodbye. Jancey, seeing her friend's distress, grabs Moonee's hand and the two run away to the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World.

Cast

Production

Development

The film stemmed from writer Chris Bergoch noticing a lot of children playing in motel parking lots while visiting his mother in Orlando, Florida. For his part, Sean Baker has said he has always been inspired by the Our Gang films, because the characters "were actually living in poverty, but the focus was the joy of childhood, the humor that comes from watching and hearing children."[12][13]

In December 2017, producer Andrew Duncan stepped down from his role as financier of June Pictures after numerous allegations of sexual harassment.[14] Baker stated, in part: "While we did not witness nor have any knowledge of inappropriate behavior, we are of course deeply concerned about these allegations. I have been outspoken before and firmly believe that film sets and work environments absolutely must be safe spaces for everyone regardless of gender, age, race, or creed."[15][16]

Filming

The Florida Project was filmed in the summer of 2016 on location in Osceola County, Florida,[17] including at the real Magic Castle Inn & Suites located on U.S. Highway 192 in Kissimmee, which is nearly six miles from Walt Disney World.[18]

Unlike Baker's previous film, which was shot with an iPhone, The Florida Project was filmed using 35mm film, except for the final scene, which was shot without authorization in Disney World's Magic Kingdom park using an iPhone 6S Plus.[19][20] To maintain secrecy, the shoot at the resort used a skeleton crew consisting of Baker, Bergoch, cinematographer Alexis Zabe, acting coach Samantha Quan, actors Valeria Cotto and Brooklynn Prince, and the girls' guardians.[20] Baker intended the ending to be open to audience interpretation: "We've been watching Moonee use her imagination and wonderment throughout the entire film to make the best of the situation she's in—she can't go to Disney's Animal Kingdom, so she goes to the 'safari' behind the motel and looks at cows; she goes to the abandoned condos because she can't go to the Haunted Mansion. And in the end, with this inevitable drama, this is me saying to the audience, if you want a happy ending, you're gonna have to go to that headspace of a kid because, here, that's the only way to achieve it."[20]

Release

Willem Dafoe's performance was critically acclaimed and nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor

The film had its world premiere on May 22, 2017, in the Directors Fortnight section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival,[21][22] and A24 acquired the U.S. distribution rights shortly thereafter.[23] Its limited theatrical release in the U.S. began on October 6, 2017.[24] Lionsgate released the film on Blu-ray, DVD, and download.

Reception

Critical response

The Florida Project received critical acclaim upon its release, with particular praise given to the direction and the performances of Dafoe, Prince, and Vinaite. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 96% based on 320 reviews, with an average rating of 8.8/10; the site's "critics consensus" reads: "The Florida Project offers a colorfully empathetic look at an underrepresented part of the population that proves absorbing even as it raises sobering questions about modern America."[25] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 92 out of 100 based on reviews from 44 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[26]

Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post wrote that "Dafoe delivers his finest performance in recent memory, bringing to life a levelheaded, unsanctimonious character who offers a glimmer of hope and caring within a world markedly short on both."[27] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "It's film that'll make you wince at times, and you'll most likely not want to see twice, but seeing it once is an experience you'll not soon forget."[28]

Accolades

Main article: List of accolades received by The Florida Project

References

  1. ^ "THE PROJECT (15)". British Board of Film Classification. October 31, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  2. ^ O'Falt, Chris (October 6, 2017). "The Florida Project: How Sean Baker Almost Lost His Film Crew - IndieWire". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Florida Project (2017)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Sanza, Cristina (August 14, 2017). "VIDEO: First trailer for "The Florida Project" film highlights life at budget motel near Walt Disney World". Inside the Magic. JAK Schmidt. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  5. ^ Hoffman, Jordan (May 22, 2017). "The Florida Project review – poverty and joy in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved July 6, 2023.
  6. ^ Kermode, Mark; critic, Observer film (November 12, 2017). "The Florida Project review – thrillingly vibrant". the Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved July 6, 2023.
  7. ^ Hornaday, Ann (October 11, 2017). "Review | 'The Florida Project': Willem Dafoe delivers his finest performance in recent memory". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  8. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (December 11, 2017). "Golden Globe Nominations: Complete List". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  9. ^ "The Shape of Water leads Bafta nominations". BBC News. BBC. January 9, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  10. ^ "AFI Awards 2017". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  11. ^ Gelb, Andy; Purdy, Shawn; Trager, Rachael (November 28, 2017). "National Board of Review Announces 2017 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  12. ^ Feinberg, Scott (November 1, 2017). "Savannah Film Fest: How 'The Little Rascals' Inspired 'The Florida Project'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  13. ^ Mark, Kermode (November 12, 2017). "The Florida Project review – thrillingly vibrant". the Guardian. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  14. ^ Maddaus, Gene (December 15, 2017). "'Florida Project' Producer Steps Down Amid Harassment Claims". Variety. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  15. ^ Baum, Gary Baum; Masters, Kim (December 15, 2017). "'Florida Project' Producer Accused of Sexual Harassment by a Dozen Insiders". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  16. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (December 15, 2017). "June Pictures Shakeup: Alex Saks Buys Out Financier Andrew Duncan Amid Allegation Cloud". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  17. ^ Shanklin, Mary (October 15, 2017). "'Florida Project' film portrays life in Kissimmee hotels". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  18. ^ Luscombe, Richard (October 15, 2017). "In the shadow of Disney, living life on the margins". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  19. ^ Hakimi, Alexander (October 20, 2017). ""The Florida Project" Director Sean Baker on Working with Untrained Actors and Secret Filming in Disney World". Paper. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  20. ^ a b c Lee, Ashley (October 11, 2017). "'The Florida Project': Director Sean Baker Explains How and Why He Shot That Ending". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  21. ^ "Fortnight 2017: The 49th Directors' Fortnight Selection". Directors Fortnight. Société des Réalisateurs de Films. Archived from the original on April 19, 2017. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  22. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (April 19, 2016). "Cannes: Juliette Binoche-Gerard Depardieu Drama to Kick Off Directors Fortnight". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  23. ^ Seetoodeh, Ramin; Lang, Brent (May 26, 2017). "A24 Buys Sean Baker's 'Florida Project' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  24. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (June 12, 2017). "Cannes Directors' Fortnight Title 'The Florida Project' Stakes Out October Date". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  25. ^ "The Florida Project (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 4, 2022.
  26. ^ "The Florida Project". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  27. ^ Hornaday, Ann (October 11, 2017). "Review | 'The Florida Project': Willem Dafoe delivers his finest performance in recent memory". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  28. ^ Roeper, Richard (October 12, 2017). "'The Florida Project' ably explores gloomy lives under sunny skies". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 28, 2017.