The Florida Project

First Hit: A troubling and powerful view of a young girl living in a motel near Disney World.

After the closing credits I was left with the feeling that I didn’t quite know or understood what I just witnessed.

Was it a scripted film? Was it improvisational? Was it a combination of both? At times, it felt all too real which is a good sign for any film. Yet, watching the actions of the kids made me cringe because I wanted the parents to guide the children with manners, civility, and a modicum of honesty but it probably wouldn’t have been an interesting film otherwise.

Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) is being raised in a bright purple motel near Disney World by her heavily tattooed mother Hailey (Bria Vinaite). The motel is being managed by a kindhearted compassionate and strong rule making Bobby (Willem Defoe).

Moonee plays all day with Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto). They run around the motel, neighboring motels, open areas, and stripmalls, conning people into money and food, taking food from a urban outreach van, and getting into trouble by some of their actions including starting a fire.

Hailey hangs out at her motel room watching television, turning tricks, and conning tourists to buy perfume and other makeup accessories. Her best friend at the motel is Ashley (Mela Murder) who works a waitress job and provides free food for Hailey, Moonee and her son Scooty. However, this relationship falls apart because of their children’s’ involvement in an incident.

This film doesn’t have much of a story other than to share the story of their day to day lives of surviving life in a motel. It wasn’t too hard to see that a future life for Moonee would be difficult as she wasn’t getting educated and her mother did not have the skill set to teach her anything other than conning people.

Prince is amazing as the young girl handling life really well as only a street smart 6-year old girl can. I struggled to know what was acting and what was simply her being herself. Vinaite was powerful as a caring mom who has made her way on the streets from being a stripper, prostitute and con artist. Rivera and Cotto as Moonee’s friends were amazing. I loved their sessions of eating one ice cream cone together. Defoe was exceptional as the caring compassionate motel manager who had to walk a fine line between enforcing the rules and helping these families survive. Murder was excellent as the mother who knew and delivered on boundaries that would make Scooty a better citizen. Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch wrote an extremely life-like script reflecting this slice of society. Baker got amazing performances out of his actors.

Overall: This film was an excellent slice of life.