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Critics reviews
The Florida Project
Sean Baker United States, 2017
Two great films against the infamy of adulthood. Defoe today and Benigni yesterday as the great maternal protagonists of our devastated and vile times. Two films to hold on to what’s left of (our) humanity and hope (not) for a second infancy of history.
December 28, 2018
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Like last year’s American Honey, Baker’s film is a timely paradox—call it magical neorealism—depicting hardscrabble poverty without the attendant sermonizing. In both of these melancholy summertime gambols, imagination can make adventure out of just getting by.
January 03, 2018
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As with Tangerine (2015), it takes a few scenes to become accustomed to Baker’s rhythm and tone, but once you’re there, it flies.
December 31, 2017
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When Moonee switches off the motel’s generator on the hottest day of the summer, Baker sets his camera far back from the action, framing the Magic Castle like a pink-and-purple dollhouse and turning its inhabitants into angry action figures. . . . The comically detached point of view and subtly sophisticated choreography (all of the film’s major characters come into view over the course of 30 seconds) recalls the refined master-shot slapstick of French master Jacques Tati’s Playtime.
December 19, 2017
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The loping, summery rhythms of the movie allow the viewer to savor its unusual characters, have-nots who should not arouse our pity but rather our shame. Little Brooklynn Prince is a delight and a heartbreak as Moonee and Willem Dafoe gets to strut both his charisma and compassion as the Magic Castle’s harried manager. The ending turns poetic realism into poetic license, and is a beautiful grace note.
December 13, 2017
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The film’s uniqueness gives it a fragile feel: It seems impossible that the setting, acting, and directing could all align in a way that manages to make the story feel this right — but also doesn’t condescend to its subjects . . . Baker’s films are fueled by this baffling alchemy: a mixture of classic film school pretension, a deep appreciation for genre, a devotion to social realism, and a rejection of most of the qualities that make a film “marketable” in contemporary Hollywood.
November 19, 2017
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The storytelling in The Florida Project is subtle, telling the adult viewer just enough while maintaining the unadulterated optimism that commonly filters a young child’s gaze on the world. And yet it is not a lens that condescends to the child; the film makes clear Moonee’s inordinate insight, and the audience is compelled to marvel at the boundlessness of her imagination and joie de vivre.
November 09, 2017
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Shot in an observational neorealist style but with an eye for the gaudy, sherbet-coloured beauty of the setting, it’s a warm, sympathetic piece. Non-judgemental about mothering, it shows the sheer rule-breaking fun of Moonee and co’s behaviour, while acknowledging its very real risks . . . Full of compassion and curiosity about its characters’ fragile lives, this memorable drama establishes Baker as among cinema’s most original chroniclers of childhood.
November 09, 2017
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Baker’s aesthetic project might be described as making time stand still. Like an antithesis of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (which depicted the cumulative effects of time), The Florida Project conveys a sense of endless stasis. Baker doesn’t give dramatic emphasis to any individual scene; instead he grants a sense of wide-eyed wonder to major and minor events alike, and this gives the film a uniform tone that belies any sense of dramatic development.
October 20, 2017
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It’s presented as a heartwarming story—the press notes describe it as “warm, winning, and gloriously alive” movie that “declares boldly and proudly, that anywhere can be a Magic Kingdom—it just depends on how you see it.” If you wish hard enough, it might almost be a Disney story. The Florida Project is certainly lively, but it is anything but redemptive. In spite of its episodic documentary quality, it traces an overdetermined downward spiral.
October 18, 2017
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The movie is extremely difficult to describe. Critics have been acknowledging this in their reviews! Something happens in this movie – a mood, a vibe – completely separating it from the grim surroundings… None of this, though, accurately describes the powerful experience of Florida Project. I thought my heart would explode at the end (for example).
October 12, 2017
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It’s a reminder that a child’s-eye view necessitates doing more than crouching the camera low to see the world from the POV of someone 4 feet tall. That’s clearly a key ingredient. But you can’t just remake the world in images: You have to remake the world as an experience.
October 07, 2017
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The film’s structure at first seems loose and episodic, with repeated scenes of the kids tromping through marshy fields and strip-mall parking lots looking for trouble. But each scene, even the seemingly improvised ones consisting only of short bursts of overlapping dialogue, serves a purpose, establishing a plot point or observing a key moment in the characters’ relationships.
October 06, 2017
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Baker encouraged his cast to improvise, using Hal Roach’s “Our Gang”shorts as an example of what he wanted. He’s too openhearted a filmmaker to punish us with unleavened realism. The Florida Project is both radiant and unsentimental.
October 05, 2017
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For all the variety of incident in “The Florida Project,” for all its careful observation of characters, it’s as emotionally inauthentic and fantastic, under the guise of its hard-edged and warmhearted realism, as the Disneyfied realm with which Baker contrasts it. The movie’s halcyon dramatic narrowness is all the more unfortunate in the light of what Baker can do when he’s looking at his characters—at his actors—with unvarnished simplicity.
October 05, 2017
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That strange mix of elation and deterioration that gives the film its dynamism is also what makes The Florida Project such a confounding, almost Rorschach-like experience… While it’s refreshing to see a film that deals with American poverty yet has no interest in wallowing in miserablism, Baker often swings far in the other direction, slathering layers of adorability over nearly everything little Moonee, Scooty (her downstairs pal), and her other friends do.
October 02, 2017
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Of all the captivating neophyte actors I witnessed during my five-day film feast, none could top the sheer anarchic force of the pint-size troupe in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project… Without a trace of sentimentality, Baker’s film salutes the ineradicable fortitude that all kids seem to possess. The Florida Project bears out Lillian Gish’s maxim in Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955): "Children are man at his strongest. They abide.
September 29, 2017
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Through their actions, Baker shows us the power of childhood as both a creative and a destructive force. As in Wonderstruck, the characters’ lack of equilibrium informs the style of the picture, which is less a narrative than a series of loosely collected incidents — some funny, some creepy, some heartbreaking.
September 27, 2017
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Monotony sets in early on, though Baker’s intent . . . eventually becomes clear and drastically reorients the feel of the film. What initially appears to be a “Celebration!” of amorphous youth reveals itself as a pastel-colored horror flick (a feeling further intensified by the ultra-saturated 35mm cinematography of Alexis Zabe, who shot two Carlos Reygadas provocations, Silent Light and Post Tenebras Lux) about the easily discarded American poor.
September 26, 2017
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The film was shot on 35mm by Alexis Zabe, who was responsible for the remarkable look of Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light (2007) and Post Tenebras Lux (2012). Here Zabe finds a balance between haunting beauty and bright pop, and his night shooting is particularly lush. In the end, however, Baker returns to his iPhone to shoot his final scene—a mad, magical dash through The Florida Project. It’s the perfect ending to a deeply humane film.
September 22, 2017
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Studded with kitschy capitalist detritus (fast-food domes shaped like giant oranges or mermaids) and graced with flashes of detailed yet ephemeral beauty (a fireworks display at night, a pair of children approaching a bovine herd amid tall grass), Baker’s film overflows with euphoria and sadness.
September 11, 2017
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Baker spends much of The Florida Project charging in vigorously nimble fashion up and down the stairs of the Magic Castle, in and out of its rooms, investing the minutia of the down-and-out lives within this little ecosystem with a bittersweet energy and significance.
September 10, 2017
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As in many of Sean Baker’s films, The Florida Project’s final destination doesn’t quite captivate as much as the journey taken to get there. Baker’s sixth feature is first a merry wander, then a desperate gallop through the plastic fantastic environs of central Florida, where each motel is more garish than the last, and struggling families have long since pushed out the tourists for whom these Disney World knock-offs were constructed.
September 06, 2017
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The episodic nature of Baker’s film suggests that the world the characters inhabit is fast and fleeting, unsentimental but teeming with unprocessed emotions… But as The Florida Project crashes into its haphazard end, you’re left wanting more. Not more events, but more of the characters—their experiences of the world as people with thoughts, feelings, and idiosyncrasies that aren’t only reactive to or symptomatic of their circumstances, but compelling expressions of themselves.
September 03, 2017
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[Baker] reasserts his commitment to 35mm film, and the garish sun-blasted color of the cheap motel buildings and the grassy lots where the kids play, as if they are young animals learning to go on the run because that may well be all the future holds for them, captures the attention better than the twists of any narrative—not that there isn’t a narrative here, though it’s all but hidden until the heartbreaking end.
July 03, 2017
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Sean Baker’s The Florida Project was a revelatory experience, both in and of itself and because of the fact that it so fully realized the promise of American place-specific reality-based fiction cinema after so many years of films with intriguing passages and situations that never quite add up to an entire satisfying movie.
July 03, 2017
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Sean Baker’s manic neorealist fable The Florida Project is stock and cute, which probably goes some way toward explaining my muted response to it.
May 26, 2017
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Cannes is so often brimming with worthy, issue-laden tales of poverty. This is a breath of fresh air in that it’s a mostly happy film about an ugly world… Mostly the plot-light film skips along with its protagonists, but there is a crescendo of drama at the end that culminates in a tear-duct-testing finale. While the film’s final symbolism may be a little trite for some, there’s no escaping that what we have just witnessed is the coming of age of a six-year-old.
May 24, 2017
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Come to this event often enough and you eventually learn the danger of making definitive pronouncements that you may regret months, weeks or even days later. So I’ll try to be as measured as I can when I say that I haven’t seen a more thrillingly alive movie at Cannes this year than “The Florida Project,” the latest tour de force of ramshackle realism from writer-director Sean Baker.
May 24, 2017
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One of the best films playing at Cannes isn’t in the official selection, but in Directors’ Fortnight, a separate program that runs concurrently with the main event. The glorious, gorgeous “The Florida Project,” directed by Sean Baker, had its premiere on Tuesday and rapidly became one of the most talked-about titles.
May 24, 2017
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The infectious joy of a long childhood summer is brilliantly and boldly brought to life, unfolding, like Baker’s vital last film “Tangerine,” in a vivid present tense. (Is there any director now working less in thrall to the sentimental seduction of nostalgia?) But the deceptive intelligence of “The Florida Project” is how immersive this bouncy-castle reality is while sitting exactly on top of the drawn-out, unremarked tragedy that is life on the margins of respectable, solvent society.
May 23, 2017
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Baker carries over the raucous spirit of his pervious iPhone opus, Tangerine, and then boldly notches things up a level for this new one. It feels like his most epic and profoundly affecting film to date. And it’s not that it looks expensive or that the story is broader in scope than usual. More that it offers a trenchant and compassionate political statement about the condition of working class America without once resorting to bald point making or cliché.
May 22, 2017
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