I think it’s safe to say that a large chunk of the world’s population is familiar with Disney and their various theme parks. Disney World which is located in Orlando, Florida is probably the most popular of them all. People travel from all over the globe to visit the magic kingdom, driving by tourist shops, food chains, and motels on the way. Sean Baker’s latest film, “The Florida Project” gives us a very real look at what life is like for many just outside of Disney.
Set during the course of a summer, the story centers on 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite). The pair had taken up residence in a purple motel, called The Magic Castle, managed by Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Moonee, along with her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto) spend their days looking for adventure. Due to their lack of discipline, their adventures consist of spitting on peoples cars, begging strangers for money to buy ice cream and causing vandalism to various properties. Moonie may only be 6, but she is quite intelligent.
Scooty’s mother, Ashley (Mela Murder) works at the Waffle House down the street. She also happens to be Halley’s best friend. Because money is hard to come by, Ashley has no problem supplying her friend with waffles when needed. Unfortunately the friendship takes a turn for the worse when Ashley realizes that Moonee is a bad influence on her son.
It’s hard to categorize what kind of film “The Florida Project” is. There is something so absolutely beautiful about it, but at the same time it can be heartbreaking. Baker does an amazing job balancing the different tones. What really brings everything together is the cast. Prince gives such an amazing performance as Moonee. It is quite impressive, especially for a newcomer. Vinaite is also a newcomer and gives a truly powerful performance as a single mother who loves her daughter but just can’t seem provide her with a stable home life. Dafoe also shines here. The veteran actor gives one of the best performances of his life and I hope he gets a much-deserved award nomination for the work he has done here. It is not a major role but it’s one that sticks with the viewer.
My only issue with “The Florida Project” is its’ final moments. I would be lying if I said I fully understood what the point of the last couple minutes were. It’s a minor gripe about a film that delivers something truly wonderful.
By: Marc Ferman