Blu-ray Review Drama

'The Florida Project' Blu-ray Review: A Bittersweet Portrait of Humanity, as Seen Through the Eyes of Children

February 27, 2018Ben MK

Borrowing its name from what would eventually become Walt Disney's "second Disneyland," director Sean Baker's The Florida Project offers a bittersweet look into the lives of some of America's hidden homeless, revolving around the mother-daughter duo of Halley and Moonee (Bria Vinaite and Brooklynn Prince), who live at the $38-per-night Magic Castle motel, just down the highway from the Magic Kingdom.

A single mom who hasn't grown up herself, Halley treats 6-year-old Moonee more like one of her girlfriends rather than her child, feeding her junk food for every meal and letting her spend most of her days running off on her own with her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Dicky (Aiden Malik). But when the kids' never-ending acts of mischief — which includes hocking loogees on car windshields, wreaking havoc with the motel's electrical system and setting an abandoned building on fire — lands them in trouble, Moonee ends up befriending Jancey (Valeria Cotto), a girl from the neighboring Futureland Inn, instead.

From having a picnic on the trunk of an uprooted tree to standing in awe of a rainbow, Moonee and Jancey become inseparable. But can their friendship survive the hard truths of their shared circumstances? The innocence and wonder with which these two BFFs view the world around them permeates The Florida Project, but at the same time, Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch aren't afraid to explore the darkness of Halley's life as well, whether it be her grifting or her turning tricks to keep a roof over her and Moonee's heads.

Shot in a cinéma vérité style and populated by a cast of mostly unknowns (save for Willem Dafoe as the Magic Castle's gruff but protective manager), it's easy to forget that The Florida Project isn't a documentary. That said, viewers looking for a more conventional narrative may be disappointed. The observational nature of the storytelling does, however, allow plenty of room for Prince's and Vinaite's naturalistic performances to shine through, making for one of the most compelling portraits of humanity you'll see this year.

Unlike Baker's last film, Tangerine, which was shot on an iPhone 5s, The Florida Project was shot mostly on 35mm film, with results that translate much better to Blu-ray. Picture quality is filmic, with light grain and appreciable detail throughout, and colors, such as the purple hues of the Magic Castle or the greens of Futureland, are bright and vibrant. The movie is almost entirely dialogue-driven, with the exception of the atmosphere provided by sitcoms and infomercials on TV, hip hop music on the radio, and the almost constant sound of highway traffic, but it's nothing that the provided DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix can’t handle.

Elevation Pictures' single-disc Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Under the Rainbow: Making The Florida Project (22:22) - A collection of behind-the-scenes footage from the film's production, from location-scouting, to rehearsals, to filming.
  • Bloopers and Outtakes (2:45) - The cast goof around on the set.
  • Cast and Crew Interviews (49:39) - Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, Mela Murder, Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch talk about the characters and making the film.

The Florida Project is available from Elevation Pictures as of February 20th, 2018. The Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and English SDH subtitles. The total runtime is 1 hr. 51 min.

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