Willem Dafoe Shows His Warmer Side in This Lovely A24 Drama

The Big Picture

  • Willem Dafoe’s overall performance in
    The Florida Project
    showcases his capacity to embody a genuine, endearing, and complicated character.
  • Bobby Hicks, played by Dafoe, serves as each a mentor and protector for the vulnerable young children living in the motel.
  • Dafoe’s portrayal of Bobby showcases a vulnerability and humanism not generally observed in his earlier roles, highlighting his versatility as an actor.

The most assuring sign is when Willem Dafoe shows up in a film. One of the very best actors functioning currently, Dafoe has by no means mailed in a overall performance, no matter the genre, scale, or excellent of film. This is not to say that the 4-time Oscar-nominated actor carries himself with a pretentious show of a manic and tortured artist. Every interview and off-camera sighting of his demonstrates him as an amicable and humble star. Despite his wholehearted off-screen persona, Dafoe has produced a name for himself playing perverse and ominous characters, oftentimes as a villain, in films for the final 40 years. One part of his, as the effectively-to-do and vigilant motel manager in The Florida Project, suggests that his warmer side is untapped.

The Florida Project poster

The Florida Project

Set more than a single summer time, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all although living in the shadows of Walt Disney World.

Release Date
October 6, 2017

Sean Baker

Brooklynn Prince , Christopher Rivera , Aiden Malik , Josie Olivo , Valeria Cotto , Edward Pagan

111 mins

Main Genre

Sean Baker , Chris Bergoch


Willem Dafoe Has a History of Playing Oddballs and Villains

Throughout his prolific profession as a screen actor that continues currently – which includes his acclaimed overall performance in Yorgos LanthimosPoor Things – Dafoe specialized in playing heavies and eccentric oddballs. He emerged in the 1980s as the antagonist of William Friedkin‘s propulsive cat-and-mouse thriller, To Live and Die in L.A., and Walter Hill‘s neo-noir crime thriller, Streets of Fire. Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese extracted a much more soulful side to his screen presence although retaining his alluring mystique in Platoon and The Last Temptation of Christ, respectively. An actor of his prestige held no qualms about playing a comic book supervillain in Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man. Because his turn as the Green Goblin was so iconic, there was no query that he required to return to the part in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Dafoe, who started his profession in 1975, becoming a mainstay in the films of Wes Anderson, Robert Eggers, and Paul Schrader, carries a youthful power to the screen in his vast array of supporting performances.

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The Florida Project, the film by indie visionarySean Baker, is a slice-of-life narrative following the summer time adventures of a six-year-old girl, Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), as she relishes in the delight and innocence of life in a price range motel in Kissimmee, Florida, on the outskirts of Walt Disney World. Moonee’s day-to-day romp with her mates is juxtaposed with the sobering reality of her unemployed single mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite), who encounters the hardships of an impoverished way of life. The Florida Project verges on documentary in its plotless structure and raw depiction of a disregarded pocket of society. Baker’s film probes the viewer to reflect on America’s class struggle by means of an objective and nonjudgmental point of view. The camera moves with the ease of a single of Robert Altman‘s expansive, eclectic character research.

Willem Dafoe is the Heart of Sean Baker’s ‘The Florida Project’

Sitting at the linchpin of the story is Willem Dafoe as Bobby Hicks, the manager of the film’s topic motel, Magic Castle, which is a spot of permanent hospitality for most of the residents. His weight and gravitas are notably present in this film, as most of The Florida Project‘s cast have been not specialist actors. In a seamless work, Dafoe, who received an Oscar nomination for his overall performance, conceals his fame and becomes a single with Baker’s atmosphere. The actor stated in a GQ interview that he viewed the film as “an opportunity to not be an actor.” He was motivated by Baker’s blend of fiction and true life, as the cast and crew have been studying about this unique atmosphere for the duration of production. Even for the most skilled actors, stripping away the artifice of overall performance to play an “authentic” particular person naturally exhibits a overall performance. Attentive viewers can determine when an actor is attempting to be “real,” but Dafoe’s transformation into an embodiment of cinéma vérité is exceptional.


‘The Florida Project’ Review: Heartbreak &amp Hope Intertwine in Sean Baker’s Latest

A young Floridian mother and daughter struggle to hold a roof more than their heads in Baker’s stick to-up to the celebrated ‘Tangerine’.

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Along with getting the manager of this price range motel outdoors the kingdom exactly where dreams are produced, Bobby serves as a guardian for Moonee and her mates, Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Dicky (Aiden Malik), who lack appropriate parental oversight. This is not to recommend that Bobby’s connection with the young children is wholly amicable, as they deliver a litany of headaches for the manager, such as when the children shut off the motel’s electrical energy, or when they are harassing vacationers. Regardless, he, along with the audience, sympathizes with Moonee and her mates, as they are troubled. This is why, when he’s not busy crunching the numbers of the motel’s finances or enlisting upkeep help from his son, Jack (Caleb Landry Jones), he is chasing away drug dealers and the solicitation of sex perform on his house.

This character dynamic of an upstanding adult figure searching out for a group of haphazard children invites the possibility of hokey or condescending storytelling, but Baker’s voice is also mature and nuanced to fall for clichéd traps. Dafoe’s magnetic screen presence ties the complete image collectively. Striking a balance involving sympathy and sternness in his depiction of the motel manager, Dafoe’s 3-dimensional overall performance drives The Florida Project. Even if the character is presented in a reduce-and-dry archetype, the sturdy adult mentor for aimless children, watching Bobby try to keep order by operating his organization and guarding the children is captivating, specially by means of Baker’s expressive camera. He’s not fantastic either, as his distant connection with his son is a void in his life.

Willem Dafoe’s Humanism and Vulnerability in ‘The Florida Project’ is Untapped

Dafoe’s capacity to hold the screen, such as when the camera tracks Bobby walking along the parking lot as he announces that the energy is back on, conveys his endearing humanism. In this scene, Baker straight away establishes that assisting folks is his calling card. He’ll express aggravation although finishing menial tasks and managing different nuisances, but eventually, he requires pleasure in hearing gratitude from residents. Bobby thwarting a stranger, recommended by the film as a kid predator, from harming the children on the lawn conveys his undying guardianship. Bobby is also shown to be exhausted. While smoking and searching out across the parking lot, his internal sadness resonates. The audience is exposed to a restricted quantity of information and facts with regards to his background and private life, however you really feel that he deserves a thing far better.

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Because of his vulnerability, Bobby can hardly be categorized as an uncompromising, challenging-nosed dictator, even when we see him evict residents or diligently enforce motel policy. An exchange involving Bobby and Halley, which shows the latter paying her rent, succinctly portrays him as a stringent but forgiving figure. Halley is insulted by Bobby counting the dollars that she handed him moments ago, as it insinuates that she is ripping him off. While Bobby continues counting the dollars, he is impacted by Halley’s affronted response. Bobby expects human decency to go each methods and desires to show that he is not her enemy.

Willem Dafoe’s pervasive benevolence and wish to make the very best out of almost everything in The Florida Project unlocks an untapped supply of humanism from the actor. The part transcends the notion that Dafoe’s participation in the film was a mere demonstration of casting against kind, as he transfers his innate charm and gravitas to a funny and heartbreaking story. While he is routinely fantastic in these components, Dafoe is regularly cast as a character with sinister undertones. You would not want his maniacal sailor in The Lighthouse or his mad scientist in Poor Things as your caretaker at a motel. If he’s not a forbidding presence, then he carries an unknowable excellent, which assists him give a mesmerizing overall performance as Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ or any film as a member of the unofficial Wes Anderson Stock Company. Dafoe’s earlier physique of perform suggests that he is incapable of the vulnerability reflected in The Florida Project. In the finish, Sean Baker’s film proves that he is equipped to play much more quiet roles, such as Bobby Hicks.

The Florida Project is accessible to stream on Netflix in the U.S.


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