Jungle
The Florida Project

The Florida Project

Movie
Director(s): 
Genre: 
In Theatres: 
Oct 20, 2017
Grade:
B+
Running Time: 
115 minutes

There is an intimacy and warmth to Sean Baker’s films that, despite the harsh realities they often address, gives you hope for the characters contained within. As terrible as a situation they may be in, you’re always left with the feeling that things will get better after the credits role. The Florida Project does an excellent job at capturing this contrast of emotions with believable characters who find themselves trying the best they can given the situation they’re in. Life isn’t always as magical as Disney World makes it out to be.

 

Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) lives at The Magic Castle Motel with her young mom, Halley (Bria Vinaite). They, along with dozens of other tenants, have been staying at the motel long-term because it’s the only place they can afford. Yet they still make due, buying perfume wholesale and then selling it on the streets to whomever may buy a bottle. Motel manager Bobby Hicks (Willem Dafoe) does his best to keep the place up and running and that includes doing whatever he can for his tenants. Moonee makes the best out of her current living situation and still plays with her friends and causes mischief like any normal kid. But as things with her mother Halley progressively get more and more troublesome we begin to see that this kinda life for a kid is anything but normal.

 

There’s a moment in the film where Moonee is telling her friend Jancey (Valeria Cotto) about her favorite tree, which has grown out of the remains of a fallen tree. She say it’s her favorite because even though it fell down, it’s still growing. It’s how I would describe Moonee to a tee. Here’s this girl who at no fault of her own is forced into a less than ideal living situation, and she is doing the best she can to deal with it. She’s still growing, despite whatever setback may come her way.

 

Brooklynn Kimberly Prince is absolutely amazing as Moonee. Despite her age, there’s this fierce attitude and wiseness that Prince is able to bring out of the character. I instantly fell in love with her from the moment she first appeared on screen. She’s just the kind of person you wouldn’t be able to say no to, either from her adorableness or her ability to convince you to give her what she wants. There’s this innocence to her as well, although it becomes very apparent that Moonee knows her life is far from the norm for a kid. It’s tragic to see such a lively kid being raised by a terrible mother.

 

Initially I thought that Halley was trying her best for her daughter as there are some great bonding moments between the two, but it soon becomes apparent that she only cares about herself. The Florida Project paints this colorful picture of people still smiling despite their situation, but it then slowly begins to take away one element after another until you see the sadness that is underneath it all.

 

Thanks to Disney World, we often see Florida as this magical place where dreams come true. The Florida Project shows what’s happening just outside its gates. It’s a harrowing film that is as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming, thanks in part to some amazing performances by the cast and a compelling story about growing up. The film does come to an abrupt end, but then again life itself is never as clear cut as we see on the big screen.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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