“The Florida Project” follows a 6-year old named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who lives in a motel with her mother (Bria Vinaite) in Florida. Together they find ways to get into trouble and make ends meet. Willem Dafoe and Caleb Landry Jones also star as Sean Baker directs and co-writes.
When I say this is a lot like “Moonlight” it is because they depict a young impoverished child living in south Florida, who must deal with the sins of their mother and learn that the world is not always the rainbows and smiles that the imagination of children would paint it to be. Just like “Moonlight” too, this features colorful cinematography, a solid musical score and an anchoring supporting performance from a father figure, while also suffering from some narrative flaws.
Right off the bat, Brooklynn Prince is a star in the making. She plays Moonee, who is equal parts lovable and annoying. She is the type of child you know means well but you can also tell that if she doesn’t get the right leadership she is going to grow up and fail to make anything of herself. Prince swears, ignores adults’ directions and gets other kids in trouble and does it with a smile on her face the whole time; she will get plenty of work moving forward in her career.
Wiliem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of the motel and he acts as the father figure for both Moonee and her mother, Halley. Dafoe has his normal growling way about him, but also realizes that this impoverished lifestyle is all Moonee and her friends have so he tries to give them as many benefit of the doubts as possible. He is a guardian angel character and on more than one occasion steps up to the plate to be a hero, which makes it all the more heart-breaking when he is powerless to come to the aid of Moonee and her mother when circumstances get out of his control.
As I said, the film looks and sounds great with the backdrop of Florida, with all of its graffiti and palm trees, acting almost as a character in its own right. It really shows that while cities like Orlando may be filled with tourists and gift shops, citizens of those areas rarely see the money brought in and struggle to make a life worth living.
The film’s biggest issue lies in its narrative, because despite running for 115 minutes there is only about 90 minutes worth of content in here. Characters get into trouble and then move on to the next plot point, with no real development happening along the way. They attempt to throw in a small plot twist towards the end however most people will see it coming the very first time it’s hinted at. And, without spoiling anything, by the time we reach the climax the final five minutes are over-the-top and not what the movie deserved to end on.
“The Florida Project” is well acted and does a nice job depicting a life rarely shown in cinema. While you will be thankful you never have to live in the same circumstances as its characters—and even more thankful that you won’t have to spend time with them in real life—it is an honest film that on the rare occasion scratches the surface of great.
Critics Rating: 7/10