‘The Florida Project’ envelops us in a world of funny antics and sad realities for 3 children living (ironically), a stone’s throw from Disney’s the Magic Kingdom, in what used to be budget conscious accommodations— now turned into a row of cheap motel housing for homeless families.
Taking place over the course of one summer, the film’ tells the story of the irascible, unemployed Halley, (Bria Vinaite) and her precocious daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), who along with her friends Jancy (Valeria Cotto) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera), often find themselves getting into mischief, at times bordering on delinquency. In plain English, kids that act like kids . . . that is, when they think no adults are watching. They’re endearing and curious; but completely oblivious to the hardships of the adult world around them.
At its core, the film deals with relationships. Moonee’s relationship with her new friend, Jancey, her relationship with her mother, Halley— who struggles to keep the harsh reality of their situation from Moonee, but is herself spiraling out fast as everyday pressures take their toll. And thirdly, her relationship with the father-like figure and tireless hotel manager, Bobby, played by the Academy Award nominated actor Willem Dafoe, who although has seen it all before, extends good will to the struggling mother and daughter. In a perfectly crafted role, Defoe, is the only veteran actor in a cast dominated by talented newcomers.
The authenticity of each performance is such, that is easy to forget that they are simply performances.
Captured in documentary style, Sean Baker (writer, director) and Chris Bergoch (writer, producer) deliver a deeply authentic film, filled with incredible portrayals of a forgotten population . While the film is not seen through the eyes of Moonee; you will become absorbed into a world which she navigates through equal parts cunning and imagination. Her performance intuitively laced by the young actress with equal parts improv, and colorful language; (at times she swears like a sailor), warrants the film an R rating.
“The Florida Project” is an important film exploring an unfamiliar topic to so many. Hopefully, the film will have us all pondering the realities of Moonee’s world.