The Florida Project Blu-ray Review
"If you can dream it, you can do it" - Walt Disney
Writer/director Sean Baker's follow-up to his iPhone-shot Tangerine is another impressive slice of finely-observed fringe life.There's no doubt that Baker's projects are often quite challenging, and perhaps even the definition of acquired taste - tackling everything from working in the porn industry to being a transgender prostitute - however he has an acuity of focus that is relatively rare, managing to capture the essence of fringe existence, wherever he might find it. The Florida Project is arguably his most impressive work, jettisoning the technical selling point of Tangerine, and relying instead on pure performances and genuine sentiment to paint a picture which, though far from a masterpiece, is remarkably fresh and raw. Baker's work is somewhat reminiscent of the projects of Brit counterpart Andrea Arnold (who, coincidentally, has crossed over to the US), with The Florida Project feeling like a precursor - or perhaps even successor - to Arnold's Fish Tank.Here the focus is on the lives of a group of young children whose parents can barely pay the weekly rent in a gaudy pink motel bordering Disney World, ironically called The Magic Castle. Six year-old Moonee and her mother Halley lead the pack; the former left to mischievously entertain herself, whilst the latter tries her best to avoid responsibility. Baker's narrative is non-existent, but his observation of these individuals is impressive, with excellent performances from newcomers Brooklynn Prince, as the dream-driven Moonee, and Bria Vinaite, as her tough but subtly vulnerable mother, even if all the praise has gone to nominated Best Supporting Actor Willem Dafoe (admittedly on career high form as the motel owner). The Florida Project still has its flaws, not least a controversially jarring ending, but is worth watching for the performances alone.
Picture QualityThe Florida Project comes to UK Blu-ray complete with a superb 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Shot on film, and framed exquisitely (it looks like kitchen sink Malick), it looks fabulous both in close-ups and longer, broader picture postcard shots, with the opening act affording the film a slew of perfectly-centred anamorphic shots of rather striking locales - the giant orange, the castle shop, and the motel itself - which give you an idea of the visual impact that even such a small scale indie feature is capable of making.
Shot on film and framed exquisitely it looks fabulous
Detail laps up the facial nuances, skin textures - multiple all-body tattoos - and the (often colourful) hair of the lead characters, the clothing weaves and lived-in motel rooms, and that's even before we get out of the room and look at the Disney-tinted environment, with its striking pink-purple hues and misleadingly fairytale veneer. The sunny blue skies, and simply stunning orange-red sunsets (again, expertly captured, playing the shadows of the characters against the setting sun) all lend a warm sunny vibe to the palette, with lush greens and plenty of primary tones from the kids themselves. Black levels are strong, only dipping occasionally in terms of shadow detail when the light sources are restricted, and it's otherwise a largely excellent, thoroughly filmic presentation which, given it was delivered with a full 4K Digital Intermediate, may have looked surprisingly special on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Aside from the iPhone-shot bookend (which was done due to the location), it's top notch.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also a strong offering, providing a rich and authentic reflection of the fly-on-the-wall-esque drama, and keenly observing the ambient nuances of the colourful environment to bring this ragtag bunch of individuals to life.
A very nicely observed audio accompaniment
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, absorbing the informal language of this group and disseminating it with prioritisation across the frontal array. Effects lap up the minutiae of their fringe existence, from the constant traffic in the background to the bustle of the busy motel (particularly when the power goes out!), to the TVs blaring in the rooms, with chirping insects and natural environmental noises picked up whenever the kids go on their adventures. The score helps give the track some oomph - non-existent for vast swathes but bringing things to life when it does kick in with a few key song tracks, and overall it's a very nicely observed accompaniment.
ExtrasThere's a short Featurette, a bevvy of Interviews and some Bloopers to round out the disc.
Blu-ray VerdictThe Florida Project still has its flaws, not least a controversially jarring ending, but is worth watching for the performances alone.
The UK Blu-ray release of The Florida Project affords the excellently-framed, shot-on-film feature great video and strong audio, as well as a healthy selection of extra features, making it a very good release for fans to pick up, and well worth checking out for those intrigued.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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