The Florida Project
The best film of the year so far, a dreamlike slice-of-life from Tangerine director Sean Baker that follows a mischievous group of kids led by foulmouthed 6-year-old Moonee (a startlingly natural Brooklyn Prince) over the course of a summer. Moonee and her train wreck mother Hailey (Bria Vanaite) live in candy-colored squalor on the outskirts of Disney World, denizens of a run-down budget motel managed by a tough but fair cipher named Bobby (an outstanding Willem Dafoe). While Moonee and her ferocious young playmates gambol through the kitsch-strewn landscape like a modern-day Tom Sawyer and friends, Hailey’s life slowly disintegrates. Without ever judging, preaching or force-feeding the narrative, Baker and his uniformly brilliant cast create a cinematic universe that is utterly absorbing and alive. The world of The Florida Project feels tangible, lyrical, forbidding and magical all at once, a boundaryless playground for kids and a quicksand prison for everyone else. D.B.