2018 Oscars Challenge: [2] “The Florida Project” – Best Actor in a Supporting Role

WILLEM DAFOE
“The Florida Project”



Director: Sean Baker
Producers: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Francesca Silvestri, & Shih-Ching Tsou
Writers: Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch
Cinematography: Alexis Zabe
Editor: Sean Baker
Distributors: A24
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Run-time: 109 minutes


CHARACTER SYNOPSIS: Willem Dafoe portrays Bobby Hicks, the brusque yet warm-hearted manager of a budget motel who often finds himself playing surrogate father to the young residents.


Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” his follow-up to indie-darling “Tangerine” (2015), is all about subtlety. The film lacks any real story arc, as we follow a young group of kids lead by Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) as they run around with reckless abandon in the rundown outskirts of Florida’s Disney World. Without those arcs, subtlety reigns. And that makes the moments that do happen hold that much more weight. Moonee’s mother, Halley, a former stripper, is out of work and eventually divulges into prostituting herself to make ends meet at the Magic Kingdom motel where they stay. A lot of Moonee’s innocence is gone, even at six-years-old, with no guiding force and zero boundaries.

Most of the actors in this film are unknowns, meaning they’ve never acted before. One of the only recognizable faces in the manager of the motel, played by Willem Dafoe. Despite needing to keep the rowdy people staying at his motel in line, he seems like a big softy at heart. Personally, I feel like his character would have been better served being a grumpy old curmudgeon who appears to not care at all, something I feel like Dafoe could have easily done. Then, he softness would hold that much more weight and you could even perhaps have a character in this film with some redemptive qualities. Dafoe cleaned up this year during the critics’ awards, splitting most of them with Sam Rockwell, for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” After seeing Dafoe’s performance, I do feel like Rockwell has the better chance of grabbing the Oscar already, because Dafoe’s performance did not blow me away, like say the subtle performance from Mahershala Ali in last year’s “Moonlight,” to which he won the Academy Award and rightfully so. Dafoe and Ali’s performances are very much along the same lines, both being in indies, both being much older guardians for children that are going through something. But Dafoe benefits mostly from acting in a film with mostly first-timers, which automatically elevates his presence in the film. I have a feeling Dafoe’s best performance, the one he will actually win the Oscar for, is still ahead of him, but it is nice to see him break from his typecast and show a lighter side to his acting ability.


PREVIOUS NOMINATIONS

WILLEM DAFOE
YEAR FILM AWARD CATEGORY
1986 (59th) “Platoon” Nominated Best Actor in a Supporting Role
2000 (73rd) “Shadow Of The Vampire” Nominated Best Actor in a Supporting Role



SCREENER

VIEWED: Wednessday
January 24th, 2018

42

40

Films Left Days Left

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