R Dir: Sean Baker | Lionsgate | 1h 51min
Plot: What’s it about?
It wasn’t until I saw a short clip during the Oscars that I had even heard of The Florida Project, but I’m glad I did, because it looked interesting. Willem Dafoe was nominated for best sporting actor for his work here, and he gives a fine performance. It’s one that really adds to the film and has a realness to it. It’s certainly an interesting film, one that almost had me wanting to turn it off early on only to grow more and more involved as it went on. There’s such an authenticity to it from the acting to the way the characters dress and behave. It’s set mostly around a motel where we follow a few characters, such as the motel manager and see their daily routine, or struggles, if you will.
The film begins where we see some kids fooling around the premises of a cheap looking motel. They seem harmless enough, but soon resort to a spitting contest from the second floor ledge onto a car window. The kids are Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Dicky (Aidan Malik). The owner of the car, Stacy (Sandy Kane) finds out and reports it to Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the manager of the motel. Bobby warns Halley (Bria Vinaite) about this and says he will evict her, especially after he discovers she’s been smoking in her room. Halley is the mother of Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who is one of the kids that was spitting on the car. Really, though, this is a film you just have to see to experience. I kept wondering as I was watching it, just what in the world can I really say about it in my review. I mean that in the way that there really isn’t much of a plot, rather than us just following the characters and see the carefree nature of the kids versus the adults who have the furthest thing from a glamourous life. I particularly liked following the Bobby character and how he interacts with all the tenants day to day. Whether it’s telling a woman she can’t sunbath topless to scaring off a potential predator saying he only wants a soda. Not just his character, but everyone featured in the film comes across as believable. There’s a rawness to the film that only adds to the authenticity of it.
I can see some viewers being turned off early by this film, but give it a chance. It just might come around on you as it did with me. As I mentioned earlier, I was close to wanting to turn it off (though that’s hard for a reviewer to do), but I warmed up to the film. Despite the meandering plot, there’s something about it that wanted me to see what would happen next. I was somewhat hooked by what the characters would do or say next. In a way, the Florida setting acts as a character in its own right. We see what the sweltering heat can do. I have family in Florida, and I know how miserable the weather can be most of the time. If you ever think you have it bad, just think of the characters in this film. It’s not always the most pleasant thing to watch, but it kept me intrigued and that’s worth something. I’m not sure what to think of the strange ending, but the journey is still worthwhile.
Video: How’s it look?
The transfer is a good one that, despite the rather ugly setting of the film, features some nice, bright colors. The exteriors of the motel feature several attractive purple and pink colors that really pop in HD. I read that this was shot on film (something rare these days), the old fashioned way. The image is AVC encoded with a 2.38:1 ratio. I can’t find any faults here as the image remained consistently satisfying.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD track works well, but this is a mostly dialogue driven film. Vocals, however, are clear and crisp with an authentic quality similar to the film itself. The surrounding elements add to the track such as the outburst of other tenants and the Florida wildlife. This is a straightforward track that gets the job done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Under the Rainbow: Making The Florida Project – A pretty encompassing feature that looks at some of the early casting, some reads from the script and some information on the locations used.
- Cast and Crew Interviews – A more in-depth look at the film is actually this segment that features interviews with many of the cast and crew involved.
- Bloopers and Outtakes – The title says it all.
The Bottom Line
Despite being turned off by some of the very early moments which had me wondering just what I was in store for, the film kept me with it. It’s a unique film that really isn’t about anything in particular, but the characters kept me invested. It’s not something I need to return to, but it’s worth viewing once. Recommended.