Strong coarse language
Director: Sean Baker
Featuring: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, Caleb Landry Jones
Running time: 111 minutes
Original review: Louise Keller, Urban Cinefile
Extracted by: Peter Gillard
The Florida Project is a cinematic experience to treasure. When the film begins we are introduced to kids being kids: precociousness just for the heck of it. Most of the film’s reality takes place at the illustriously named Magic Castle, a motel near Disney World. Central to the action is Moonee and her mother Halley, looking like a would-be mermaid with scraggy hair tinged with silvery aqua. Two prominent silver studs define her lower lip and an unlikely bouquet of roses is prominently tattooed on her chest. Halley is the epitome of a down and out rebel, who spits at society. Not surprisingly, Mooney has become a mini Halley.
The rhythms of Halley’s life are a constant struggle to make ends meet and to pay her weekly $38 to the motel’s manager Bobby who is the watchman, policeman, peacemaker, babysitter and fix-it man. He cannot hide the soft heart that lies beneath his strong words and toughness. There are things to deal with: a dead fish in the pool, bed bugs, a topless sunbather.
Halley makes a living however she can: as a dancer or stripper, selling perfume on the streets, asking for handouts, stealing and eventually bringing paying men to the motel room. The confused expression on Mooney’s face behind the shower curtain from her bath, as she is discovered by one of Halley’s ‘visitors’ is unforgettable. Watch for the scene when Halley takes Moonee to a lavish buffet where the little girl indulges to her heart’s delight. Her face says it all as she eats a strawberry and raspberry together for the first time. This is the life, she says with relish. Wish I had a bigger stomach.
We watch as innocence becomes shattered in a corrupt world. There are scenes that make our heart break. The final reel is rich with poignancy, despair and hope as the illusion of the impossible dream appears. The momentum of everything that has gone before swirls in an emotional frenzy. This is cinema at its raw best. Don’t miss it.