The Movie That Should’ve Been An Oscar Sure Thing: The Florida Project Comes To Blu-ray

by Rachel Bellwoar

New to Florida’s motel circuit, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera) offer to show Jancey (Valeria Cotto) around. Having met because Moonee spit in Jancey’s eye, an adult might think twice about agreeing to a tour, but Jancey’s six, and the not-so secret source of The Florida Project’s magic steals the show in the film’s opening scenes.
Directed, co-written, and edited by Sean Baker(Tangerine), The Florida Project is Our Gang for the 21st century. Baker mentions the shorts in an interview for the film’s Blu-ray release and I haven’t been able to stop seeing their influence since.
Better known as The Little RascalsOur Gang ran from the 20’s through the mid-40’s and starred kids behaving like kids, unsupervised. Today you hear this talked about with some nostalgia – the days when parents didn’t need to know where their kids were – but whether they didn’t need to know, or society’s concerns changed, seeing Moonee replicate that independence in 2018 is a very different experience.
Time brings new perspectives all-around. Watching Our Gang as an adult, you’re more aware of when the stories take place. The Depression wasn’t always mentioned, but it wasn’t taboo to discuss, either. Children made comments, without realizing their import. The same thing happens in The Florida Project.
The issue of hidden homelessness was brought to Baker’s attention by his co-writer, Chris Bergoch. Unable to afford a permanent residence, families in The Florida Project stay in budget motels, where every week the question of making rent comes up.
Prince’s career is just beginning, and Willem Dafoe’s motel manager, Bobby, is as likable as a person can be, without overstepping into sainthood, but one performance that hasn’t been talked about enough is Bria Vinaite’s as Moonee’s mother, Halley.
Flippant during situations that call for being serious, Halley is an abrasive character and Vinaite doesn’t pretend otherwise. The script doesn’t save Halley. No displays of vulnerability make the audience come around, but if Halley’s pride rubs adults the wrong way, it also raises Moonee’s spirits. Vinaite earns the full scope of Halley’s resolve, and while Halley makes the occasional moral concession, her commitment to putting a bright face on for her daughter never wavers.
Moonee’s positive outlook is a testament to those efforts. Able to find joy talking into a portable fan, all the times the kids talk tourists into paying for their ice cream and they never try to wheedle them out of paying for more than one cone.
If splitting a cone three ways is enough for Moonee, The Florida Project‘s single Oscar nom (Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor) is enough for me, but when a film is this deserving of awards show recognition, you want it to have that boost that comes with Oscar season sales. Hopefully the film’s release on physical media can raise a similar response.
Bonus Features:

  • “Under the Rainbow: Making The Florida Project” – Highlights include learning about revisions made to the script and their lucky break filming a real rainbow
  • Cast and Crew Interviews – Sean Baker, Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Chistopher Rivera, Mela Murder, and Chris Bergoch
  • Bloopers and Outtakes

The Florida Project is available on Blu-ray and DVD starting Tuesday, February 20th, 2018.

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