The Florida Project is a drama directed by Sean Baker and co-written by Baker and Chris Bergoch. For many of the leading stars, this was the first time they had acted in a movie. I had no idea what this movie was about but became anxious half way through to see how it would end. While I needed much more, I thought it was a descent endeavor.
Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) is 6 years old and lives in Kissimmee, FL (which is near Walt Disney World) with her mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite). They reside in a motel called The Magic Castle where Moonee spends most of her time unsupervised with her motel-resident friends, Scooty (Christopher Rivera and Dicky (Aiden Malik), engaging in mischief, mooching from tourists, stealing, and other misbehaviors. One day the 3 children get caught spitting on a guest’s car. As punishment, they are made to clean the car plus Dicky’s father forbids him to play with Moonee and Scooty any more. Dicky is replaced with a new friend from next door who is living at the Futureland Motel named Jancey (Valeria Cotto). Dicky and his family relocates to New Orleans seeking a better life. Meanwhile, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the manager of The Magic Castle is very protective of the children and tries to keep things in order. Halley struggles to pay the rent and hawks perfume to tourist in hotel parking lots and persuades Scooty’s mother, Ashley (Mela Murder), to steal food for them from the diner where she works. Once Ashley discovers the kind of mischief the 3 children are into, which includes setting fire to an abandoned condominium, she severs their friendship including stealing food. Halley moves on to a new venture, offering her services online as a prostitute, closing Moonee in the bathroom when she has a client. Bobby notices the activity and applies restrictions on unregistered guests in her motel room. Next Halley steals a client’s Disney resort passes to sell. When the victim finds her and demands his money back, Bobby gets involved and scares him off and warns Halley of eviction if she doesn’t stop all her illegal activity. Desperate, Halley approaches Ashley to apologize and ask for money. When Ashley mocks her for her prostitution, Halley beats her in front of Scooty.
The Florida Project is an odd movie because you are never clear what the project is. Leaving unqualified adults to care for children is never a good idea no matter where they live, the end always yields the same results. You will definitely have to see this one (preferably on DVD) to draw your own conclusions. I thought the movie was informative but not enough depth to amount to anything. Willem Dafoe was brilliant. Check it out!
[The Florida Project was Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe)]