Review: "The Florida Project"

After “Tangerine,” Sean Baker sets up his camera again with an eye towards uncharted America with “The Florida Project.” This time his eye goes towards the makeshift motels that litter the main avenues towards Disneyland, distilling a moist, colorful, and shimmering atmosphere, thanks to Alexis Zabe‘s beautiful photography.
Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) is 6 years old and lives in a motel with her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite). On summer break, Mooney and her ragtag group of friends look for adventure as they roam through the outskirts of the motel while the adults around them struggle to make ends meet. Baker shoots his own “400 Blows” with his little band of insolent misfits. The atmosphere, paradoxically decadent and disenchanted, mixes what filmmaker himself calls “pop verité” cinema, to create a hybrid of hope and misery that feels both transcendent and groundbreaking.
The hijinks of the children rubs shoulders with the problems of the parents in a purple motel guarded by its concierge. A touching and funny Willem Dafoe is the hotel’s concierge and an Oscar nomination for the 62-year-old actor is not out of the question, hell a win would be very justified. 

Despite the flirtations with squalor, Baker never succumbs to the sirens of miserabilism. Instead, he prefers the fanciful fantasy of the children who, in their flight forward, can glean moments of happiness for themselves from the simple light of a blue sky. Seen through the eyes of these amazing kids, the world seems intriguingly beautiful, melancholic in fact, where every small detail counts and feels fresh again. Meanwhile on the upper floors, parents, unfortunately, are in utter indifference, as they struggle with adult problems way beyond any kid’s comprehension.
Like “Tangerine,” it is this sense of freedom, freshness, and energy that, in Baker’s mise-en-scene, from the camera to the non-professional actors, the film maps contemporary America. Baker doesn’t succumb to the sirens of miserabilism, even though the final, sad frame might hint at this. Instead, he prefers the fanciful fantasy of the children who, in their flight forward, give themselves moments of happiness by the simple light of a blue sky.
Baker is the architect and painter, who knows how to find these eminently human emotions.
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