From Streets Of Fire to Spider-Man 3 (give or take a Bobby Peru), Willem Dafoe has played villains, creeps, and all manner of guys you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley—or motel parking lot, for that matter. But for The Florida Project, the new film from Tangerines Sean Baker, Dafoe is taking a novel approach: being the good guy. In the film, Dafoe plays Bobby, the fatherly manager of a brightly-painted, worn-down Orlando motel called The Magic Castle that’s home to a disenfranchised group of permanent residents as well as a rotating cast of budget-conscious tourists. Newcomer Brooklynn Prince stars in this slice of a rarely explored side of American life as young resident Moonee, with Bria Vinaite as her single mom Halley.

The Florida Project was a favorite of The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd at Cannes, where he gave it an A- and called it “sublime: a blast of life, of celebratory highs and lamentable lows, on the outer economic edges of the Sunshine State.” Citing the film’s “carefree everyday magic,” Dowd singled out Dafoe for special praise, saying, “It’s one of Dafoe’s funniest and most moving performances.”

Advertisement

The Florida Project opens on October 6.