DVD Review: The Florida Project

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Sean Baker | CAST: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Aiden Malik, Caleb Landry Jones
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 20, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $12.96, Blu-ray $18.00
BONUSES: featurette, interviews, bloopers, outtakes
SPECS: R | 111 min. | Drama | 2.38:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

A brilliantly acted, masterfully directed and sharply observed look at a very dispiriting subject, The Florida Project is an emotional tidal wave of a movie that focuses on life on the fringes, across the street from a magical, make-believe world.

Directed and co-written by Sean Baker, whose iPhone-filmed Tangerine garnered lots of attention last year, The Florida Project centers on the relationship of six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), who live in a down-and-out Orlando motel minutes away from Disney World. Their day-to-day hardscrabble life includes scrounging for food, selling marked-up perfumes in parking lots and, for Moonee, hanging with her friends in and around the complex.

Keeping an eye out for the motel’s residents is Bobby (Willem Dafoe, John Wick), the place’s crusty manager/custodian/guardian, called on to tackle maintenance issues, kick pedophiles off the premises, evict renters overdue in paying their rent  and keep tabs on his troublesome tenants, both young and old.

Brooklynn Prince and Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project

Anecdotal and free-flowing, The Florida Project is at times a tough sit, fly-on-wall realistic as it is in its vision of the desperate folks inhabiting the unsettling world it depicts. What makes it especially powerful is its focus on the unknowing children who, like their parents, appear to have little chance to escape their impoverished lives.

Aside from the Oscar-nominated Dafoe, perfect as the human glue that holds together the film’s loose structure, the film is populated by neophyte actors with nary a false note among their performances. In fact, Brooklynn Prince as the ever-resourceful, fast-talking Moonee, delivers one of the best child performances in recent memory. Ditto for debuting Bria Vinaite as Moonee’s mother, who scores in a complex part that asks the audience to both admire and scorn her character, sometimes in the same scene.

The Florida Project received mostly rave reviews—96% “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes—but its downbeat subject matter had a huge impact on its less-than-impressive $6 million box-office take. Still, with its strong word-of-mouth and some year-end critic award recognition, The Florida Project is destined to find the adventurous audience it deserves.

Buy or Rent The Florida Project

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.