Right outside of Disney World is a place that is anything but magical. Sean Baker gives us The Florida Project, a story about six-year old Moonee and her adventures at a run-down motel. New talents Brooklyn Prince and Bria Vinaite join veteran actor Willem Dafoe in this story about life right outside the happiest place on Earth.
Sean Baker really lets us into this impoverished world right outside one of the most popular amusement parks ever. It doesn’t feel exactly like a documentary because it is well-shot, but it does feels very real. The character relationships are complex, as conflict always seems to be right around the corner and Baker puts us right there with Moonee, dealing with it all. Baker really makes you feel like you’re in this motel filled with the less fortunate that are scraping by, but he also manages to capture the innocence of children. Baker’s strength lies in his ability to observe small details that contain rich emotions.
Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of the Magic Castle hotel. He is an everyday guy that’s stern, but tries to do the right thing. It doesn’t sound like an amazing role, but Dafoe plays it so naturally and brings soul to the character. He has problems of his own, but he’s busy trying to help everyone else with their problems at the Magic Castle. Bobby is almost like a guardian to the residents of the motel. He’s especially protective over the kids, and you can see it in his eyes.
Six-year old Brooklyn Prince plays Moonee, a charismatic little girl that lives with her young mother Halley, played by Bria Vinaite. Brooklyn Prince is a natural for her age, and displays great chemistry with everyone in the cast, especially Bria Vinaite. Prince portrays Moonee as a child with wonder and innocence, as well as a wreck-less charm that comes from her mother. She is a delight to watch onscreen and handles each scene like she was born to act.
The Florida Project is a film that truly captures what it feels like to be a kid growing with little to no opportunities. It’s also an uplifting film in a way because Moonee manages to find happiness throughout all the hardships her and her mom have to endure. She’s tough without even knowing it, and she even admires others things that are tough, like her favorite tree. The Florida Project observes how a poor child stays rich with wonder of the little things in life in a world run by Disney bucks.