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Review: The Florida Project

Saw The Florida Project at Village East Cinema to scratch another movie off my Oscars catch-up list. Brought me back to the Orlando I remember from my UCF days—to the swamps, strip malls, and pastel-painted motels on the outskirts of The Happiest Place on Earth. Initially, that local flavor is the main attraction: the narrative ambles along rather aimlessly, eschewing plot in favor of brief (and seemingly improvised) vignettes depicting free-range wild child Moonee and her gaggle of friends making mischief and tormenting tourists. Gradually, however, the conflict that has been lurking just beyond the boundaries of the frame begins to intrude on our heroine’s carefree fun (her mother needs to cover rent somehow, after all), threatening to snatch away her innocence forever. Writer/director Sean Baker’s knack for filtering the harrowing struggles of his adult characters through his young protagonist’s naive point-of-view makes The Florida Project one of the most heart-wrenching coming-of-age stories I’ve seen in a while (sorry, Lady Bird), eminently worthy of its Awards Season buzz.

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