The Florida Project

I hate criticizing a movie that has heart and soul only to collapse under it’s own weight.

The Florida ProjectUnfortunately, had Director Sean Baker’s The Florida Project been edited for Oscar consideration as a Live Action Short, it would have challenged for the top prize. However, while it is an original film by any definition, its length causes it to outrun its own significance.

The film focuses on the lives of the struggling poor living near Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In the process, we watch Halley, a tattooed mother with dyed green hair and a pierced lower lip trying to raise a six-year-old daughter in a budget motel.

Moonie, the young daughter, spends each day roaming the nearby countryside with her friends while mom attempts to support herself in various ways, one of which includes selling cheap perfume to tourists. While Bria Vinaite is unforgetttable as the tormented mother, young Brooklynn Prince captures your attention as a little girl fascinated by nearly everything she sees.

The movie is held together by the performance of Willem Dafoe, here playing  Bobby, the small motel’s manager. Trying to maintain a bit of order at his establishment, he also provides comfort and guidance to residents living outside the The Magic Kingdom in more ways than one.

However, as inferred above, this film would have been a brilliant short film that artistically drowned in a length of one hour and 55 minutes. It’s not that you didn’t remain intrigued with the central characters, but rather that the repetition caused the entire movie to lose its heart and soul.

Given that I have had the pleasure of visiting Disney World on multiple occasions, it never occurred to me that there were people like Halley and Moonie living in the shadows of this tourist empire. You were reminded of that reality when a couple in the film were checking in to the run-down motel on their honeymoon, left in anguish when their wedding planner had promised them a room at the Polynesian in Disney World.

Put another way, the joy of riding Space Mountain lost a bit of its significance when people a stone’s throw away were fighting to climb a small mountain every day to exist.