Happiness doesn’t come cheap. For many outside the privileged class, the price is prohibitively high. Those in the privileged class glance at this inescapable truth and wonder, with little intent to follow up, what they might do to subvert it.
The Florida Project — directed by the increasingly essential filmmaker Sean Baker, who also co-wrote the script with Chris Bergoch — trains its eye on the darkest corners of that tension. Its characters live, almost literally, in the shadow of Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World — known to its legions of visitors and admirers as “the happiest place on earth.” That golden sheen doesn’t stretch so far, though, and what lies beyond it is often ugly. To its credit, The Florida Project works hard to find a few bright spots amid that ugliness. It’s a complicated portrait that neither moralizes nor equivocates.