Willem Dafoe in 'The Florida Project'
Sean Baker's tour of Florida's Magic Kingdom motel row is filled with sympathetic screw-ups, kooks, freaks, kids and parents who act a helluva lot like kids. Amidst a cast of incredible non-professionals (one of whom, Brooklynn Prince, is a ray of sunshine given tiny human form), Willem Dafoe isn't just the rare star in the mix; he's also the only genuinely reliable adult among these down-and-outers in the sunshine state's outskirts. This manager is both the calm before the storm and the pillar of strength in the eye of it, a beacon of sanity and stability. None of which, of course, can stop the story's inevitable loss of innocence. We've seen this man play vampires, shark-toothed criminals, supervillains, convicts, rats (figurative and literal ones) and Jesus Christ. It took Dafoe playing a kindhearted workaday stiff, however, to jolt us into remembering what an extraordinary actor he is.