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Seeing Walt Disney World from the outside in ‘The Florida Project’

By in Press Enterprise on October 3, 2017

By Bob Strauss

Most people who go to Walt Disney World and other Orlando theme parks would never dream of staying at The Magic Castle. They probably wouldn’t find a room anyway at the hot pink roadside inn if they tried, seeing as how its cheap lodging has become home to various down-on-their-luck residents.

And vacationers aren’t likely to want to rub shoulders with the strippers, waffle restaurant waitresses and their unruly kids who stay there week-by-week, stretching into months and, for some, years. But Sean Baker really wanted to get to know these folks and – as the filmmaker did with young Valley porn actresses in “Starlet” and transgender prostitutes on Santa Monica Blvd. in “Tangerine” – he’s made an empathetic and really quite magnificent movie about them, “The Florida Project.”

As he’s tended to do throughout his career, Baker mixed professional actors such as Willem Dafoe and the then six-year-old dynamo of adorable destructiveness Brooklynn Prince, incredibly talented first-timers like Instagram discovery Bria Vinaite and some actual residents of the budget motels for this, well, project, which was named after what Walt Disney and his engineers initially called their Florida park venture.

Baker’s longtime writing partner Chris Bergoch, a Disney World fan whose mother lives nearby, began bringing his observations about the local motel residents to the director six years ago. He and Baker were particularly taken with the poor but fun-loving, hellraising young children who were determined to enjoy their childhoods any way they could. To Baker, they seemed the perfect subjects for the updated Little Rascals movie he’d been contemplating.

And it is a very R-rated version of that. But “Florida Project” also tells the much wider story that Baker and Bergoch uncovered in their person-to-person research.

“We made trips to Florida and did what we essentially did with ‘Tangerine’; talk to residents, local […]    

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