THE FLORIDA PROJECT
SYNOPSIS: Set on a stretch of highway just outside the imagined utopia of Disney World, The Florida Project follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince in a stunning breakout turn) and her rebellious mother Halley (Bria Vinaite, another major discovery) over the course of a single summer. The two live week to week at ďThe Magic Castle,Ē a budget motel managed by Bobby (a career-best Willem Dafoe), whose stern exterior hides a deep reservoir of kindness and compassion.
I remember being six years old the summer Disney World opened. My father had us up at the crack of down to take the road for the 4-5 hour trip to meet the Mouse, Mickey Mouse. We stayed at what today I would consider a dive motel, but at the time thought it was the most amazing place to stay. Can you imagine being a six year old and that dive motel is your permanent home?
This is the life of Moonee, played by Brooklynn Prince, and her rag tag friends. The film takes place over one summer as it follows this little girl in all her mischief and adventure. This is the seedy back story of kids having to live with their parents choices. Their saving grace is that even though their language would seem to reveal these kids are jaded, innocence is still ever present as they see the hardships as one big game in the playground of motel life.
Moonee lives with her mom Haley (Bria Vinaite), an obviously rebellious miscreant who although is misguided in most of her life decisions, does love her little girl. Her best friend Scooty (Christopher Rivera) is the son of one of Haleyís friends who at the very least tries to keep her partying out of her parenting and is trying to raise Scooty all the while working at a local breakfast stop. This leaves Scooty lots of time to hang out and get into all kinds of trouble with Moonee. I would have to tell you that the true star of this film would be little Brooklynn Price but I canít exclude Willem Dafoe in the part of Bobby, the ever vigilant, affable motel manager, grounds keeper, handyman and unofficial baby sitter. I have never seen Mr. Dafoe in a part quite like this. Iíve seen his evil, conniving even sexy turns in films but this is truly out of my comfort although, obviously not his. He really played the part heartwarmingly.
The kids go about their adventures in this unlikely place all the while unknowingly living in the shadow of the most magical place on earth, the Magic Kingdom Ė Disney World! But in their innocence, everything is great. I mean, until itís not. Haley, who obviously has no idea what good parenting skills look like, smokes weed in front of Moonee with no remorse, curses, uses her in her scams and schemes to make money but in the end stands to lose it all because of the bad choices she makes. You canít help but witness these young actors and think this isnít acting because innocence like this canít be faked. I canít tell you whether I loved or hated this film. I think there is a griminess to it that leaves you feeling a little dirty, a little guilty but a whole lot sad.
Review By Priscilla
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