The Florida Project (2017)

Written and Directed by Sean Baker, The Florida Project is a funny and at times sad movie that follows a group of children who enjoy most of their days venturing out and having crazy adventures - all on the door step of the famous Walt Disney World.

But it isn't just about children.  We have their parents and a host of motel workers that are trying their hardest to maintain a roof over their (and their childrens) heads, which isn't an easy task when jobs are scarce and some tennants (in the case of motel manager, Bobby - played by Willem Dafoe) are at times boisterous to say the least!

Visually stunning, The Florida Project plays alongside the vibrant and wealthy theme parks of Walt Disney World but deep inside this story we have a tale of unemployment and recession which surrounds our main characters.

But whilst the movie may be set amongst the backdrop of unemployment, the motel our characters live in are bright and colourful. They have the sunny weather, wild birds roaming around (characters of their own in one scene involving Willem Dafoe) and of course the souvenir stores and diners that we see appear quite often throughout.

Willem Dafoe as Bobby in The Florida Project

As for the characters, Moonee (played by Brooklynn Prince)  is easily the most rememberable of the movie.  She is only six years old but has a mindset that resembles an 18 year old.  She is rude, chatty, loud but smart with it.   With that said, she is also a bad influence on the other kids.

She uses all her know-how to get what she wants from strangers, such as money to go buy ice cream and free food from the local diner.

But she is only like this because of her mother Hallee (played by Bria Vinaite).  Hallee is a young mother who doesn't have a job so has to use her street smarts to get by day-to-day.

Scooty, Moonee and Jacey in The Florida Project

The kids are just being kids throughout the movie and Moonee, Scooty and Jancey enjoy their days, as already mentioned, venturing out and exploring their surroundings but its their surroundings that 'become' their own Disney Land.

They visit abandoned condo's which are their 'Haunted Mansions'.  Moonee takes Jancey on a safari (looking at cows if I'm being truthful) which is her own 'Animal Kingdom' and the motel Moonee and her mother lives in is her own 'Disney Land' - heck its even called Magic Kingdom in the movie!

The film does have is sad moments though - like one scene when Moonee and her mother Hallee take Jancey out for her birthday and they eat a cake by a pond whilst watching the firework display that is coming from one of the theme parks.  As they wish Jancey a happy birthday you kind of feel sad that they cannot afford to go and visit the real theme park at that moment in time.  It's a sweet scene and one that does stick with you long after the movie has finished.

There are plenty of moments like this throughout - with Hallee doing all she can to look after Moonee.  There is definately a motherly love, a bond if you will that shines through regardless of how Moonee acts even when not around Hallee.  They are like sisters in some scenes and mother and daughter in others but the outcome is the same, they love each other dearly.

Hallee and Moonee - mother and daughter in The Florida Project

Bobby (Willem Dafoe) is at his best to in this movie.  He plays the role of motel manager who has some compassion for the kids and the lives they all lead.  Perhaps more so when it comes to Hallee and Moonee. 

There is one scene in particular that really stands out and this involves an old man who wanders up to the kids whilst they are playing.  Bobby spots this stranger and does what probably of lot of us wouldn't do - he manages to convince the old guy to follow him - thus leading him away from the kids.  He see's a kind of danger towards the kids and acts on his instincts.  It's a very powerful scene and wonderfully executed.

Bobby (right) acts on his instincts in The Florida Project

Then we have the final third of the movie when things take on a different tone.

I wont spoil it here by going into details but let's say things get a little darker in Moonee's world which brings a very sad ending which you may have to use a little imagination to understand - as she and Jancey go on one last adventure.

Overall, the movie does have an innocence and upbeat feel to it.  It's funny at times and it does bring back memories of when we were kids.  OK, some of the stuff we see - not all of us would have done as children, but it's the use of the kids imaginations, the adventures they go on that kinda hark back to when I was a kid with very little to do during school term time!

The ending though.  It's tough.  Kind of heart wrenching but it does keep in tone with the movie. 

If you want a movie with a lot of emotional content, one that will (hopefully) take you back to your innocent childhood days - then The Florida Project is the perfect choice.


The Florida Project (2017)

Synopsis (IMDB) : Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Walt Disney World.

Directed by : Sean Baker

Written by : Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch

Cast :  Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Rivera, Aiden Malik, Josie Olivo, Valeria Cotto, Edward Pagan, Patti Wiley, Mela Murder, Rosa Medina Perez, Jasineia Ramos

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