Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a fun, shocking and humanist film following wild mother Halley (Bria Vinai) and her rebellious daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) throughout a single summer.
The two live week-to-week at a budget hotel ironically called “The Magic Castle”, in the shadows of the imagined utopia of Disney World, creating this beautiful yet tragic juxtaposition. In addition to this, Baker’s colourful, high-key cinematography creates an ethereal, fantastical and dreamlike element, emphasising their true reality.
Halley is objectively a bad mother, however, it becomes apparent that every decision she makes is for her daughter. There are a few moments of bliss in the film, in which Halley has paid her rent and she’s simply enjoying her time with Moonee that truly reveal the person behind each of her paychecks.
Unbeknownst to Moonee, she has no trouble making each day an adventure as she and her ragtag friends fearlessly explore the world into which they’ve been thrown. Nevertheless, her fantasy is narrowly maintained through Halley’s sacrifices, who is eventually forced to explore increasingly dangerous methods in order to provide for her daughter.
Bobby who at first appears to be a straight, tired hotel manager, turns out to be a defacto guardian for Moonee and the other children of “The Magic Castle”, perhaps due to his tethered relationship with his own son. A true catcher in the rye for all those who need him, including the adults.
The cast gave an exceptionally naturalistic performance in this glorious story, especially the children. It is a near-perfect film and a testimony in every way of everything that was great about Baker’s last movie Tangerine.