Brooklynn Prince (left) and Bria Vinaite (right) make their film debuts.

Brooklynn Prince (left) and Bria Vinaite (right) make their film debuts.

“You know why this is my favorite tree? It’s tipped over and it’s still growing.” What better way to summarize the imperfect innocence childhood on display. We can all remember being children, bratty or “perfect” or anything in between, and taking in and learning about the world through our experiences, family and friends. THE FLORIDA PROJECT puts you into the mindset of a cute little girl and calls back to memories you may have had, relishing in her innocent nature.

Living in the shadow of the fantastical utopia that is Disneyworld, a 6-year-old girl, Moonee, and her young single mother, Halley, reside in an extended-stay motel, run by Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Halley, a predictably unpredictable child in a woman’s body, struggles to pay for her room at The Magic Castle Motel. She resorts to using her body and child to help cover the cost. It’s rough to watch someone go further and further down a rabbit hole, but due to the excellent screenplay and direction by Sean Baker, it’s hard to lose interest nor sympathy for her and see why she acts certain ways and doesn’t grow, unlike Moonee’s favorite tree. Having the movie being through the eyes of the ever-lovable, inncocent Moonee helped Halley’s case, no matter how bad of an influence she was. Moonee runs around town freely with other children her age that also live in the motel.

The narrative plays second fiddle to the character piece that Baker directs so well. We know why each character does what they do, and we can trace their thought-processes through their performances. Willem Dafoe deserves all the accolades as he gives an understated, beautiful and heartbreaking performance as a man who just wants to run a reputable motel, and to be a good person. The ending unfortunately undermines my total enjoyment of the whole, leaving it just short of perfect for me.


(Refer to my rating system HERE!)