We all remember our childhoods and easy they were, compared to now. It was easy when we could run around with our friends and create all kinds of mischief and not have to worry about paying the bills and making sure ends are met. Director Sean Baker makes us relive some of our childhood memories through The Florida Project. Taking place just outside of the most magical place on Earth, Sean Baker shows us the innocence of childhood and how your environment and family life have such an enormous impact on it. Hailey and her young daughter, Moonee live in a motel. Hailey struggles to pay for rent with no actual job, while Moonee finds the joys in life, being mischievous with her friends. Bobby, the motel manager does his very best to keep the peace, making sure Hailey pays her rent, and controls Moonee’s actions, while also letting her be the kid she needs to be.
The film is actually much more complex than we would think, reminding us not to generalize people’s lives by income. Hailey struggles to deal with poverty and seems to do the best she can. However, at the same time, her mothering skills are carefree and she doesn’t seem to have any issues with her daughter spitting on cars or breaking into the electrical room of the motel. It is difficult not to get infuriated over Hailey’s decisions, but at the same time Baker makes us realize that there is more to her than what meets the eye. She is brilliantly played by Bria Vinaite. With this being her first acting role, she is sure to become a well-known actress in the future.
Moonee, played by the adorable Brooklyn Pierce, is sure to become a famous actress. Being six years old, she has already shown the film industry that she has range. Baker shows us Moonee’s inability to be afraid of anything when she is having fun with her friends, but terrified when her mother brings a strange man into their room. Little Brooklyn is one of the reasons for the film’s success and she shines in showing us the true innocence of childhood.
Bobby is superbly played by Willem Dafoe in his most moving performance of his career. Bobby makes it his mission to make sure Hailey pays her rent and when she doesn’t, he doesn’t let it slide. At the same time, he truly cares for her and wants her and Moonee to have a safe place to stay. Dafoe’s performance shows us Bobby’s true colors and makes him one of the most relatable characters in the film.
While The Florida Project in very minimal in plot, it makes up for it with emotion. This is one of the most emotional movies of the year as it is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, giving us mixed emotions for the entire two-hour runtime. It is an emotional roller-coaster, that leaves us bittersweet at the end. What gives us the emotions we experience, is the realism. The film feels incredibly real with its fantastic performances of the main protagonists. Even the surrounding, secondary characters are realistic, completely getting rid of the “Hollywood movie” feel.
Rated R for language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references and some drug material.