The Florida Project review
The Florida Project is a film directed by Sean Baker, starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Kimberly Prince, and Bria Vinaite. The film revolves around the life of Halley (Vinaite), and her young daughter Moonee (Prince), as they try to live life in a bright purple motel on the outskirts of Disney World. Halley is a young, single, blunt-smoking mother with a vicious attitude and a knack for being reckless. Although her life choices are rather impure and her ability to parent is much to be desired for, there is not a single moment where she does not turn and address her daughter with the utmost affection. The motel’s owner Bobby (Dafoe) acts as the father for all the residents in the building. Moonee’s rambunctiousness and Halley’s careless attitude do not make his job easy, but he makes it clear he would do anything to put them out of harm’s way. The brutality of their environment barely phases Moonee and her friends Scooty and Jancy, as they continue to laugh, scream, dance and play in their destitute Florida town. Moonee never acquiesces to the sadness that her neighborhood is plagued with–her energy and imagination are louder.
Baker gives the spotlight to a group of people that film rarely focuses on–children with young, poor parents, who are all on their own. It hones into the relationship between people who can barely take care of themselves, taking caring of their young kids. This sort of relationship is well-equipped with sorrow, anger, desperation–.and a lot of infrangible love. Love shown in hard-to-watch, obscure ways, but love, nonetheless. Vinaite portrayed Halley with unnerving ease. She accents her toxic laziness with her slow, dragging walk and dull, smirking eyes. She demands to charm and be heard with her distinct inner-city drawl.
The strongest and most striking part of the film was the performance by Prince. Often times, it feels like children in movies aim to be likeable and charming through clever one-liners and long shots on their fresh faces. The only thing that Baker was aiming for when he put the young actress in front of a camera was authenticity. Through Moonee’s sloppy speech, constantly flailing arms, and curious darting eyes, she was appealing all on her own, and that rawness was never lost.
Throughout the movie, there is a repetition of the same moments happening. Examples of this repetition are of the children asking for money and Halley and Moonee selling perfume. In some instances, the same thing happening over and over seems excessive and not entirely necessary, but in other instances, this reiteration subtly reveals a purpose. In these cases, this slow and inexplicit display of the truth is profoundly heartbreaking, and it is hard to imagine that this misery be encapsulated in any other way.
The part of the film that is the most maddening is the ending. Maddening in a bad way–not in an intriguing, achromatic way. It was too abrupt and rushed for the audience to feel a sense of enlightenment. Even the cinematography of the last scenes seemed out of place and awkward.
The Florida Project gives a bright, well-deserved light to a group of people that are not typically exposed to the general public. It illustrates the dysfunctional yet immortal love that is had by tired, empty men and women, and determined, daring children. The film is an exhibit of candor and imperfection of people and places. Although the ending veers off the path that Baker has formed of consistency and unrefined reality, the rest of the film holds organic-ness as a prize. It gives children and undervalued adults a chance to talk…or shout.