Sean Baker is one of the few filmmakers working today who gets that it's possible to find joy in small, difficult corners of the world. His film Tangerine, about two transwomen and their hilarious exploits across Los Angeles, doesn't bow to typical expectations of media featuring transpeople, where their gender identity is always a tragedy and the focus of the story. Sure, Tangerine's characters are poor, and one's fresh out of jail. But the small pleasures of a delicious donut can give them the energy to power through any day. With The Florida Project, his follow-up to Tangerine, Baker again grants both humanity and humor to his down-on-their-luck subjects.
Little Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) lives with her smack-talking, tatted young mom Halley (Bria Vinaite) in the Magic Kingdom Motel, walking distance from the throngs of crowds that flock to Disney World year-round. Moonee romps around the "neighborhood" (really just a motel-dotted track of interstate) with her little pals, Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto), getting into trouble wherever they can, while motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) plays the Mr. Wilson to their collective Dennis the Menace. We know that Halley's nights out drinking and her unemployment may not be building toward a happy ending, but this is a story seen through Moonee's eyes. She believes that as long as you're clever and cute enough, you can scheme your way out of anything.
It's glorious fun watching Moonee and her buds face boredom and heat. Dafoe's character, the guy who's too nice for his own good, becomes something of a father to these volatile children and Halley, resulting in some explosively funny scenes.
Filmmaking is not a poor man’s game. Even as digital cameras get cheaper, making a film worthy of release still requires dough to get off the ground, which means the folks who tell stories through cinema tend to come from backgrounds of privilege. That breeds movies aimed at middle- to...