Don’t Forget about The Florida Project

Why The Florida Project isn’t getting more recognition is beyond me.

I saw the film when it first came out. I think that day my friend and I were originally intending to see another film, however we got the date/time wrong. But, so as not to waste an entire evening, we decided to see The Florida Project because we had both seen at least one trailer for it and were interested in seeing it.

So, into the theater we went, not really knowing what to expect. Turns out we should have expected lots of tears (but you could say that about us for nearly any film).

The Florida Project follows a six-year-old child named Moonee, who lives with her mother in a motel in Orlando, Florida, just outside of Walt Disney World. We follow Moonee over the course of one summer, watching as both her and her mother try to stay out of trouble.

Moonee is played by a young actress who I have become obsessed with because she is just so crazy adorable. Her name is Brooklynn Prince, and she is one crazy talented little seven year old. I remember being completely heartbroken watching this movie as Moonee cries out for her mother while Child Protective Services is trying to take Moonee away. And I mean, completely heartbroken.

Bria Vinaite is one of the other stars of this film that I have become obsessed with. Watching her in this film, you would think that she’s an actress. You’d be surprised to find out that The Florida Project was her first film, and that director, Sean Baker, found her on Instagram. She’s now just living her best life being unapologetically herself and I. Am. Living. For. It.

I’m convinced that Willem Dafoe has never been bad in any movie ever. He is a tremendous actor and he brings wonderful warmth to this picture.

Alright, let me talk about Sean Baker for a moment. Sean Baker is the director of The Florida Project. His previous film, Tangerine, was filmed solely on iPhone 5s’s, with the assistance of some steady cam smoothie mounts, and a clip on lens. (It’s rather impressive). Tangerine was about a hooker who searches through Los Angeles for the pimp that broker her heart. The film feels very real. These are real people, with real problems. And Baker keeps that feeling with The Florida Project. The struggles of every family living in that motel felt so real. It felt as if Baker was simply pointing a camera at, not characters, but real people. And we were just watching on for this brief moment in their lives.

The ending to the film is my favorite. I remember watching the film in theaters and, at the end, there was a lot of confusion from the audience. I remember hearing a lot of people say things like “what was that?” or “why end it that way?”  And I just sat there with a smile on my face. The title of this film, The Florida Project, was what Walt Disney World was referred to during its development. The whole film is spent with Moonee trying to make the best out of a bad situation. She uses her imagination to make her life happy. And, when the life that she knows and ultimately loves is being ripped out from underneath her, she runs across the creek, grabs her very best friend, and goes to the place that is known to so many as “The Happiest Place on Earth”. And then the camera cuts to black.

And I remember sitting there with the biggest smile on my face and so many tears in my eyes.

Sean Baker explains it best: “We’ve been watching Moonee use her imagination and wonderment throughout the entire film to make the best of the situation she’s in — she can’t go to the Animal Kingdom, so she goes to the “safari” behind the motel and looks at cows, she goes to the abandoned condos because she can’t go to the Haunted Mansion. And in the end, with this inevitable drama, this is me saying to the audience, ‘If you want a happy ending, you’re gonna have to go to that headspace of a kid because, here, that’s the only way to achieve it.”

I honestly wish that every person involved with this movie could win an award. It truly is a beautiful film.

Did you see The Florida Project? What did you think? Did you like it, did you hate it, did you think the ending left something to be desired? I’ve been dying to talk about this film with people, so let’s talk.

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