If you are looking for a movie that has a straightforward story that has a clear beginning, middle, and end, then this might not be the movie for you. It does however actually have a story, but it just doesn't have the traditional narrative structure that you normally see in movies. Think of it more like a stream of consciousness slice of life tale, in the summer months, about a community of people who are trying to live to the fullest as much as they can, despite their financial station in life.
There are three primary characters to follow in this story. Moonee, the trouble making girl who loves to go on some adventures around the city of Kissimmee, Florida, and who manages to annoy people in the process. Brooklynn Prince is amazing as Moonee by playing her in such a naturalistic way as a young kid, that it's captivating seeing her light up the screen with her energy. Halley is Moonee's Mom who acts like she has no care in the world and does as she please, who also manages to annoy people in the process because of that. Bria Vinaite is also amazing here as Halley, who has to balance that care free caustic attitude with the fact that she still has to make us want to root for her.
Co-Writer / Director Sean Baker successfully gives us a fantastic contrast between the things you hate and like about Moonee and Halley, and it's that kind of complicated characterization that compliments the themes of this movie. One of the themes being that these are people just trying to make ends meet, who are constantly reminded at how well off some other people are just across from them in the luxury resort that is Walt Disney World. The juxtaposition of having scenes of a little girl who has to con her way into getting free ice cream, and seeing some wealthy person in a helicopter flying away everyday from her motel room, is showing us that stark divide that exists in our world.
Less you think I forgot to finish my earlier point, there is that other third character of the movie that we follow here. That character is Bobby, the manager of the Magic Castle motel; which is a real life place by the way. There will be those who say that Moonee is the true heart of this movie, but I would argue that it is Bobby. Willem Dafoe does a remarkable job as Bobby, in a way that deserves recognition. As the thankless manager, he has to balance being the person in charge of the place that has to give rules and regulations to everybody there, and yet still finds it in his heart to care enough about those people even though he doesn't have to. It's a moving character piece that once again feeds into the theme of this movie about the contrasts between the haves and have nots.
Although "The Florida Project" can sometimes act like it's just home made videos that are just stitched together into a full length feature, it is still a cinematic experience that should resonate with you. The awareness it brings to people like Moonee, Halley, and Bobby, is an admirable thing for this movie to do. This isn't exactly a documentary, but it may as well be.
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