Anokhi Buzz / Three Reasons Why ‘The Florida Project’ Is The Best Film Of 2017

Three Reasons Why ‘The Florida Project’ Is The Best Film Of 2017

Anokhi Buzz Oct 25, 2017

Our take on the most-buzzed film at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. We give you three reasons why The Florida Project is the best film of 2017. 

The best film at #TIFF2017 was also the best film of the whole entire year. The Florida Project is set in a grimy, low-rent motel called The Magic Kingdom, just across the street from the real, Disney-branded one. We open on six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), one of many poverty-stricken people who call the motel home.

She lives with her erratic single mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), and spends her summer having adventures amidst strip malls, ice cream shops and abandoned homes, while her mom slowly self-destructs, and The Magic Kingdom’s manager (Willem Dafoe) does what he can to look out for both of them. Here are a few reasons to check it out.

A Stunning Debut

Three Reasons Why The Florida Project Is The Best Movie of 2017: Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mom Halley (Bria Vinaite) grind out a living in Florida with a smile. Photo Credit: A24 Films/vox.com

It’s a big risk to anchor any film around a six-year-old actor, let alone an ambitious indie drama aiming to shine a light on a little-seen corner of American life. But more than just up to the task, young Brooklynn Prince is seldom less than riveting. As Moonee wiles away the summer days oblivious to the poverty and misery that slowly consume the adults in her life, the actress who portrays her is hilarious, heartbreaking and utterly authentic. If Prince wasn’t good, this movie wouldn’t work. But she is, so it does. If Prince wasn’t perfect, this movie wouldn’t be 2017’s finest. But she is, so it is.

An Equally Perfect Supporting Cast

Three Reasons Why The Florida Project is the Best Film of 2017
Three Reasons Why The Florida Project is the Best Film of 2017: Willem Dafoe greets young Brooklynn Prince on the red carpet at TIFF. Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for TIFF

As the only real “name” in the cast, Willem Dafoe gives perhaps a career-best performance — which is saying a lot given the career he’s had. Magic Kingdom manager Bobby Hicks is almost as worn out by life as the people who populate his motel, and as the man responsible for collecting their room fee/rent every week, he’s also, by necessity, a bit of a prison warden. But he’s also warm, funny and when need be, fiercely protective of the men, women and kids on his property. Dafoe gives a nuanced, lived-in performance. Far from plot-driven, the delight of this film lies in sitting and visiting with the characters; Dafoe, in particular, makes for splendid company.

Also a marvel: Bria Vinaite as Moonee’s mother. Train wreck, con artist, young parent who’s utterly out of her depth— Halley is herself still just a kid. And with no money and no family to support her, she’s living out an untenable fantasy as The Magic Kingdom—clinging to her adolescence while she raises a child of her own, struggling to ignore the fact that the unforgiving walls of the real world are closing in. Like her young co-star, Vinaite is explosively watchable as a young woman burning bright on her way to burning out.

 

A Master Filmmaker Truly Arrives

Three Reasons Why The Florida Project is the Best Film of 2017
Three Reasons Why The Florida Project is the Best Film of 2017: Director Sean Baker attends the TIFF premiere of his film. Photo Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for TIFF

Director Sean Baker first turned heads on the festival circuit with a similarly gritty, micro-budget indie called Tangerine, about a prostitute scouring the streets for her missing pimp on Christmas Eve. His second feature marks an elevation of his very distinct art form, as he shines a canny spotlight on the under-covered shanty towns that cropped up in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse.

The Florida Project is very low on incident; it’s pure slice-of-life — a series of relatively ordinary days lived out in the area immediately surrounding a shitty motel in Florida. And yet it’s electric. Baker (with the assistance of his perfectly picked cast) makes the ordinary enthralling. From a group of six-year-olds conning strangers out of ice cream money to Bobby Hicks struggling to heave a bed-bug-infested mattress down two floors and into a dumpster, there’s a crackle to this film, thanks to Baker’s knack for training a loving yet unflinching gaze on humanity in all its rawness. From this point forward, the premieres of his films, whether at the festival or the multiplex, are calendar-circling events.

Three Reasons The Florida Project is the Best Film of 2017: Theatrical poster for The Florida Project. Photo Credit: A24 Films

Main Image Photo Credit: tiff.net

Matthew Currie

Matthew Currie

Author

Having gotten his start with Anokhi Media as an intern in 2009, Matthew Currie was honoured to accept a position as the magazine’s Arts & Entertainment editor earlier this year. A graduate of the Professional Writing program at York University, he’s spent the past four years working as a fre...

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