Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Valeria Cotto, Bria Vinaite, Christopher Rivera, Caleb Landry Jones
Running Time: 111 mins
Release Date: 10/11/2017
The Florida Project throws us into the everyday life of 6 year-old Moonee (Brooklyn Kimberley Prince) and her best friends Scooty (Christopher Riviera) and Jancy (Valeria Cotto). I know right, the names are ridiculous, a deliberate move by director Sean Baker to highlight the names kids are given these days.
The first “activity” the kids engage with, is spitting on a car from the Motel balcony and subsequently swearing uncontrollably at the owner of said car. The film peaked early.
It is apparent immediately that Moonee is not your run-of-the-mill kid. With all the freedom she has on a day to day basis, she finds trouble with ease. It becomes almost a routine for her as she asks strangers for money, shuts off the motel power and burns down houses. Abandoned thankfully. Luckily for Moonee and her friends, Motel Manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) has got their back. Despite being clearly aggravated by the constant mischief, Bobby’s soft and protective side shines through. A side that he tries to avoid in order to remain professional at The Magic castle, that’s the name of the Motel by the way.
Moonee’s mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) is another Bobby looks out for. She rarely pays rent on time and is very confrontational to anyone that tries to boss her around, but Bobby lets it slide, with the occasional “tough love” speech to try and keep his professional act together. Halley will do anything to keep up with rent. Whether it is selling perfume in Hotel parking lots or stealing from the numerous men she solicits. Her actions soon catch up to her, forcing a visit from social services that can only go one way.
The Florida Project is a colourful film with great characters but the narrative is almost non-existent. We witness a struggle in a place meant for dreams. A film that has so much meaning yet it feels empty. Not to mention the awful ending sequence that almost renders the entire film pointless. However, Moonee shines brightest in a cast full of great performances and she remains the queen of the magic castle.