When I think of Florida, I rarely think of projects. I usually just think of Ponce De Leon, Disney World, Recounts, and Flo Rida.
And it turns out that The Florida Project wants me to think about Disney World, as apparently Disney World was first called The Florida Project in initial design phases.
This movie is brought to us by Sean Barker, who famously brought us Tangerine by filming the whole things on iPhones. Don’t worry, this film is filmed with traditional cameras. Well, except the ending, that one was filmed on iPhones for legal reasons.
Legal reasons like how creepy it would be if he filmed a whole movie on his phone of 6 year olds.
Welcome to the Magic Castle! which is just a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, right outside of Disney World! It is a cheap place, but it relies mostly on tourists who doesn’t want to stay in the fancier hotels in order to save money. And at this motel lives a girl Moonee (Brooklynn Prince). Yes that is right, I said lives. She lives in a single room with her mother (Bria Vinaite). They get around the rules by leaving the motel once a month to go to another hotel, so they aren’t officially “living there” like a lot of people at this same motel.
Her mom is in a rough place, being a young single mother. She has no discernible skills, outside of slightly good looks, but she has still been recently fired from the club she worked at. Now they have to rely on more handouts, borrowing more money from friends, and scamming tourists in order to survive. If necessary, she also will have to resort to selling her body.
In order to not go insane, six year old Moonee basically has free control over her life. She can wander around the city, across the various motels with her friend Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and new friend, Jancey (Valeria Cotto). They like to pray pranks and be general nuisances on the public. Moonee has close to no filter, and will yell and scream if necessary. She doesn’t fully understand the problems her mom has to deal with, but she doesn’t care as long as she can continue on her free spirited ways.
Also featuring Willem Dafoe as the most considerate motel manager I have ever seen. And also Caleb Landry Jones, Mela Murder, and Macon Blair.
Really he is just everyone’s dad in this movie. All of them.
The Florida Project gives a unique look at what I have to imagine is a real subculture of people, not just in Florida, but around the world. Families who are practically homeless and living in cheap motels with reasonable managers turning a blind eye every day. A lot of the better aspects is just watching how these people live, what they do with their spare time and their justifications for their actions.
It is clear watching this why children put through these measures would grow up to be unreasonable entitled individuals. The kind who take handouts while voting Republican thanks to the American dream. The kind who end up in prison systems because they never had a fair shot of growing up in a good environment.
And the kids are just so realistic, kids being kids, running around, causing trouble, being inquisitive creatures that are learning on the streets. I can’t imagine those actor kids are actually that shitty, so they are actually acting on some level and they do their own impressive performance. Dafoe in this movie is probably his least likely role ever. A caring man, who has patience, and empathy in others. That is not normal for Dafoe’s choice of roles. It was so bizarre given the actor, and it is likely to earn him nominations at the same time.
The Florida Project is quirky, but faithful to the people whose story it tells. It is not a group of wholesome people, but they are not villains either. It does a great job of toeing the line. The only thing I’d really want is a better conclusion and more information on what happens after the credits role.
3 out of 4.