Viewing life through children’s eyes in THE FLORIDA PROJECT
The Florida Project (2017) opens with a few children at play on a dirt road on a dry, sunny day. The camera follows and observes the children in their natural, innocent and playful state while they interact with each other. It is summer in Orlando, and Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera) are childhood friends who live in a run down hotel, recently converted into low-income housing, with their families and a number of other residents. Recently, Jancey (Valeria Cotto) joined Moonee and Scooty from a neighboring residential complex, and the three have since become inseparable. Halley (Bria Vinaite) is Moonee’s mother, who struggles to pay the rent, and continuously makes poor decisions. The property is run by Bobby (Willem Dafoe), with the help of a handful of desk and maintenance assistants. As the children continue to be the main focus for both the audience and the characters in the film, three related and interwoven mini stories begin to develop.
The three children struggle within their environment, as well as the individual situations that their families are placed in. Least is known about Jancey, other than her being new and adjusting to the scene. Scooty’s mother Ashley (Mela Murder) works at a nearby restaurant and sends meals back with Scooty to share with Halley and the children. Halley invites a variety of men into her home and seems to struggle with moral responsibilities and parenting decisions. Bobby gives Halley advice, assistance, and several warnings of eviction. Bobby stays busy keeping Halley compliant and Gloria (Sandy Kane) from sunbathing topless at the pool, while still maintaining upkeep and hotel standards for his supervisor, Narek (Karren Karagulian). This is how the film plays out – a string of hot, sunny days in Orlando, with families and individuals trying to earn a living and make it through the day. It becomes clear that the children do not become the only ones learning life lessons, as the adults learn life lessons on their own.
Being shot on the outskirts of Disney World does not take away from the scenic beauty. When the children take their long walks, every scene is a connected and flowing work of art – from fireworks and rainbows to abandoned stops and ice cream shops.
The Florida Project is director Sean Baker’s sixth film. Prior to this film, he worked in television and directed a number of short films. He is truly a visionary with an eye for detail, as well as an exceptional storyteller, who can make everyday life seem enjoyable on film.
Go see this one for your last taste of summer.