“Florida Project” has soul



The comedy-drama “The Florida Project” shows the viewer what it’s like to live in a motel just outside of Disney World and why the happiest place on Earth may actually not be all that happy.

The movie begins with six-year-old Moonee screaming and running around, like six-year-olds do, with her friends Scooty and Dicky. They start to spit off the edge of the second level of a motel. As the scene progresses, their behavior regresses, a taste of what is to come.

Moonee is played by Brooklynn Prince (“Monsters at Large” and “Robo-Dog: Airborne”), Scooty by Christopher Rivera (“Celebrity Page”), Dicky by Aiden Malik (“Secrets and Lies”), and Bria Vinaite is Halley (“The Beach Bum” and “Celebrity Page”).

The film goes through the everyday lives of Moonee and Halley and how they are doing anything to get by in life. For food, Moonee goes to a nearby restaurant where Scooty’s mom works, so that she can give Halley, Moonee, and Scooty free food through the back door. For money, Halley begins doing sexual favors for men so that she can pay for rent at the motel.

The acting is brilliant. . Prince, Rivera, and Malik do amazing jobs as intolerable kids and Vinaite portrays the irresponsible mother perfectly.

One of the best performances is by Willem Dafoe, who portrays Bobby, the manager of the motel. Dafoe really nails what it’s like to be the manager of a motel and the highs and lows that come with it. Throughout his performance, you can clearly tell how much he cares about the residents and also how seriously he takes his job, most obviously from the constant maintenance he lavishes on the place. If the power goes out, Bobby is immediately on his way to go fix the breaker. If people’s times are up living in the motel, he calmly asks them to leave no matter how furious they get about being kicked out and handles the whole situation very professionally. Even though Moonee, Halley, and Scooty can be a handful, Dafoe seems to watch over them although from a distance.

Brooklynn Prince does a fantastic job as Moonee in this film. She’s spot on with what it’s like to be young, live in a motel, and pretty much growing up on her own with little parental supervision. Prince’s role as this trouble maker kid who doesn’t listen to anyone is absolutely convincing.

Director Sean Baker (“Tangerine”, “Prince of Broadway”, “Take Out”, and “Starlet”) does an amazing job with this film with giving the viewers a jarring contrast between the fake happiness of Disney World and the real sadness just next to it. His other films have also focused on contemporary social issues, for example, illegal immigration in his 2004 film, “Take Out.”

The cinematographer, Alexis Zabe, beautifully depicts the shabby run-down environment in which the story takes place. Whether it be a grocery store or an ice cream stand, Zabe does an incredible job finding the right angles to shoot from to have the most impact on the viewer. There is not a lot of music in this film. The only two songs that are on the soundtrack are “Celebration,” performed by Kool & The Gang and “Happy Birthday,” performed by Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite. The other music is rap music just being played from a station on a radio. Even though most of the music comes from a radio station, the rap music is very fitting. The songs tie together well with the environment that Moonee lives in.

The film has won numerous awards to date, including the New York Film Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and Critics Award at the Hamburg Film Festival.

Running time is 115 minutes. Film is rated R for profanity.