MOVIE REVIEW: “The Florida Project” stars Brooklynn Prince (The Turning, Monsters at Large), Christopher Rivera, Aiden Malik (Secrets and Lies [TV series]), Bria Vinaite (Adultland), Mela Murder, Valeria Cotto (Backup Plan [Short]), and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man , The Grand Budapest Hotel). It was directed by Sean Baker (Tangerine, Starlet), who co-wrote it with Chris Bergoch (Starlet, Tangerine). Taking place at a motel on the outskirts of Walt Disney World, this film follows Moonee (Prince), a young girl who lives her life joyously with her friends while the rest of the world around her struggles to get along, especially her mother (Vinaite).
What drew me into Sean Baker’s “Florida Project” was simply its direction: choosing to focus on the children of a motel outside of Walt Disney World to paint a picture of the harsh realities that come from an unknown world. Plus, it had Willem Dafoe and beautiful cinematography, so what’s not to be interested by? There was a lot of buzz surrounding this feature when the Oscars were around the corner, and for a good reason. There certainly is nothing like “Florida Project,” which prides itself in showing the audience a day-in-the-life through the eyes of a child. Sure, there were adult characters who had their own drama, but it was the kid actors who took center stage in this tale. We saw a disgusting, depressing lifestyle set on display, though most of the saddening depiction of this was dulled by the bright approach given by the kids, who were basically making the best of their time, whether it be in breaking windows of abandoned houses or running around the motel and fiddling around with equipment. It was innocence at its finest, however as an audience member it is difficult not to feel upset while watching “Florida Project.” It’s unforgiving, plain, and hardly gives any closure; basically, what you’d expect from a day-in-the-life-of flick. I wouldn’t say that it was terrible, but it certainly was disappointing. From start to finish, we follow this young girl named Moonee as she traverses her daily life with a smile on her face. Her mom is a horrible influence and her friends aid her in many adventures that have bad consequences (not too extreme, more like “Little Rascals”). There’s other arcs that factor into this, whether it be Willem Dafoe’s patient motel owner Bobby, or Moonee’s mom’s struggle to pay rent, but more often than not its Moonee who is focused on throughout this journey. I thought that the approach to this was good primarily for its freshness in style. The child actors are fantastic and hardly ever miss a beat. Heck, all of the acting is solid, no matter if they had a big role or not. It was probably the best aspect of this film besides the cinematography, which was interesting. I wouldn’t say that it was revolutionary, but it was different and beautiful (especially when taking in the locations they filmed at). Aside from that, there were some good moments to be had with the story. It wasn’t that cohesive, as it simply weaved in and out of this girl’s life, but it did offer entertainment. With that said, the movie in general doesn’t boast much. I understand that it serves to inform people of the lifestyle and harsh reality of living in these motels, but it didn’t give a sense of closure nor redemption. It was better than most day-in-the-life-of features I’ve seen, but it still suffers problems similar to those in that genre. I’m given the impression that I’m supposed to support Moonee’s mom and her actions, however I can’t help but hate the woman because of how bad an influence she is on her daughter. I mean, she went into prostitution to pay rent (granted, there weren’t many options for her, but that couldn’t stop her from trying to get a job). Also, most of what happens with these kids can sway from interesting to boring. For the most part, I was entertained because of its style and acting, but there are quite a few moments that drag on. It’s what you’d expect from a story with no plot structure. The only story element that continues throughout the feature is Moonee and her mom’s dilemma of having a roof over their heads. Other than that, there really isn’t much to be vying for. Once the credits rolled, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed as much as I was dissatisfied. There’s much to be desired from an idea such as this, and while there are some good beats and moments exuded from this tale, it fails to claim glory due to its self-absorbed goal of showing us how crappy of a life these people have. When you take out that message, there really isn’t anything else to “The Florida Project,” and I think the filmmakers of this know that. I mean, they changed up the script a whole lot throughout the filming of the project after all (as shown in the special features of the DVD). If you are interested, you could check it out; it certainly has its highlights and fresh approach in style. However, it doesn’t wow as much as it should. FINAL SCORE: 73%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: