Skip to main content

If you have to watch one (HBO) Max movie in May 2024, stream this one

Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project.
A24

May is an unusually quiet time for movies on Max, which typically has a long list of additions at the start of the month. For action fans, the original Mad Max trilogy is back ahead of the theatrical release of the new film Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga later this month. Beyond that, there’s not much to get excited about besides The Lighthouse, a 2019 psychological thriller where Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson go stark raving mad in the 19th century.

Instead of going with that film, our choice for the one Max movie that you have to watch in May is The Florida Project, which also features Dafoe in a leading role. This low-budget drama takes place in and around The Magic Castle, a budget hotel located near Walt Disney World in Florida. But this movie is about as far from a Disney flick as it gets, and it’s an all-too realistic story about the poverty that exists side by side with corporate prosperity and affluent tourists.

If you need more convincing, these are the reasons why you should watch The Florida Project on Max in May.

Willem Dafoe gives a fantastic performance

Willem Dafoe and Brooklynn Kimberly Prince in The Florida Project.
A24

Willem Dafoe is great in just about every movie he’s ever made, and he’s a fantastic screen villain whose wild eyes and facial expressions make him a convincing threat. Take, for example, his over-the-top performances as Green Goblin in Spider-Man and Spider-Man: No Way Home. In The Florida Project, Dafoe is the only established actor, and the character he plays, Bobby Hicks, is not a caricature or a bad man. He’s just a regular guy who’s trying to be decent.

Bobby’s not a showy part, and Dafoe’s performance is much more subdued here than in many of his other roles. That’s why he’s so believable as The Magic Castle’s beleaguered manager. Bobby doesn’t appear to have the best relationship with his own son, Jack, but he’s protective of the kids living in the hotel even when they annoy him. Bobby’s lone sphere of influence in this world is this tiny tourist trap budget hotel. He is also the only responsible adult in this story, and it’s almost impossible not to like him for that.

The kids are very believable in their roles

The cast of The Florida Project.
A24

It’s not easy to convincingly write for children, especially when the vast majority of TV shows and movies treat them like little adults with one-liners and sarcastic asides. The Florida Project completely sidesteps that problem by letting Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friends behave like actual kids. They get in trouble, they cause mischief, and they don’t necessarily understand everything that’s happening around them.

Even though they make life difficult for Bobby, it also easy to see why he cares so much about their well-being. There’s a sweetness to the bond that Moonee, Jancey (Valeria Cotto), and Scooty (Christopher Rivera) share with each other. Cotto and Rivera are good in their roles, but Prince is even better. When Moonee is shattered by the events near the end of the film, it’s heartbreaking to watch as she cries uncontrollably.

It’s a harrowing journey into the dark side of poverty

Bria Vinaite and Brooklynn Kimberly Prince in The Florida Project.
A24

For the most part, Moonee is in remarkably good spirits despited her life of poverty. The burden of that life falls on Moonee’s mother, Halley, as played by first-time actress Bria Vinaite. There’s no silver lining in Halley’s life other than Moonee herself. Most of Halley’s misfortune comes from the choices that she’s made, but that doesn’t make it fun to watch her suffer the consequences.

It would be too easy to simply dismiss Halley as an unfit mother. And the film doesn’t revel in Halley’s increasingly dire circumstances. Instead, the story feels like an unfolding tragedy that may ultimately cost Halley the one person in her life that she loves.

The ending leaves a lasting impression

Brooklynn Kimberly Prince in The Florida Project.
A24

Without spoiling the specific way that the story ends, The Florida Project‘s conclusion feels like an inescapable gut punch. The movie may take place in the shadow of Walt Disney World, but this is far from the happiest place on Earth. There’s no out-of-left-field, heartfelt event that’s going to fix the lives of anyone at the center of this tale.

And yet Moonee and Jancey steal one final moment to be there for each other. It can’t last, and it’s not going to. But the film gives them the closest thing to a happy ending that they’re going to get, and it’s unforgettable.

Watch The Florida Project on Max

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
If you have to watch one Netflix movie in June, stream this one
A man talks to another man in Ali.

The first time we really see Will Smith as Muhammad Ali in the 2001 biopic bearing the boxer’s name, it’s at a press conference. Ali, then still going by his given name of Cassius Clay, has arrived to weigh in -- in multiple respects -- before his title match against the heavyweight champion, Sonny Liston (Michael Bentt). Smith doesn’t look or sound exactly like the man he’s playing, but he gets the puckish adversarial spirit, the born-entertainer braggadocio, down cold. This is the Muhammad Ali of legend, throwing jabs of rhyming, musical trash talk before letting his fists do the talking for him in the ring.

Liston, however, is unfazed. As he heads for the exit, he turns to answer the flurry of playful taunts: “Keep talking -- I’ll f--k you up.” At that moment, Ali’s mask of insult-comic confidence slips a little. Smith lets us see a glimmer of the fear and uncertainty under his famous jocularity, and helps us understand how much that jokester routine was a strategic performance. Here, if only for a brief second, does a crack emerge in the magnetic public image of Muhammad Ali.

Read more
How to watch WWE Clash at the Castle 2024: start time, live stream, matches
WWE wrestlers pose on the poster for Clash at the Castle.

This weekend marks a first for the WWE. Clash at the Castle 2024 is the first Premium Live Event (PLE) to run in Scotland. The trip to Scotland is part of WWE's continued effort to host events in international territories. The last two PLEs were in Saudi Arabia and France, and the next PLE will take place in Canada.

Drew McIntyre, a Scottish native, headlines this monumental card. McIntyre won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 40, but the title reign only lasted a few minutes. CM Punk distracted McIntyre long enough for Damia Priest to cash in his Money in the Bank contract and win the title. Now, McIntyre gets his rematch with Priest in front of his home crowd. Will it be a storybook ending for McIntyre?

Read more
5 best (HBO) Max movies to watch on Father’s Day weekend
4 brothers play football in The Iron Claw.

Films can be a strong bonding experience for parents and children, especially if that love of cinema is passed down from one generation to the next. And on Father's Day, one of the best lineup of movies for fathers and their sons or daughters can be found on Max. The Warner Bros. Pictures films and the HBO library of originals offer some of the best movies ever made.

However, when picking the films for the five best Max movies to watch on Father's Day, we thought it would be fitting to go with stories that revolve around family and fatherhood in some way. In our picks below, we've got a biographical drama, a fantasy action flick, and three family comedies if you'd rather just laugh with the people you love.
The Iron Claw (2023)

Read more