Someone once said that growing up is hard to do, and doing so in a movie can even be more difficult. How often have you seen a coming of age tale that ends up taking you nowhere and feels forced in its delivery? While there are a ton of these movies that are forgettable, when there are ones that get it right it can be the defining film for a generation. For me growing up that film was “The Breakfast Club” in which I felt like each of those characters was someone I knew including myself. Most of those films seem to focus on the troubling teenage years, which in coming of age are extremely important, but what about your younger years? For me those years can be just as important and in Sean Baker’s new film “The Florida Project” he shows you why.
Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) is your typical little girl living in a not so typical world. She lives in a motel in the shadow of The Magic Kingdom with her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and while the “happiest place on earth” is so close, it is also so far away. Moonee spends her day roaming the motel and the area around it with her friend Scooty (Christopher Rivera) making a ruckus and being watched more by the hotel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) more than her mother. Moonee’s mother is not watching her because of work, but instead because she spends her time trying to hustle through this thing called life. When she quits her job because of not wanting to do what was asked of her, she has to resort to things like selling perfume to tourist and using Moonee to help. After that gig falls apart she starts to sell herself, while keeping Moonee sheltered from their harsh realities. Halley has really built a house of cards for her and Moonee and that house is about to come crashing down.
Like as I stated above, telling a story like this one can be a challenge. One that Baker seems to have taken head on. Baker and Chris Bergoch have crafted a simple, yet touching story about childhood. Baker builds a world for Moonee in which she seems to be in a life that happiness seems to always be a step away and when we get to the end of the film we see whether it’s possible or not. Brooklynn Prince is definitely a name you need to get used to hearing as she takes Moonee to levels that you would think someone her age couldn’t reach. There are plenty of times it just feels like Baker set the camera in front of Prince and let her be her and those moments are just golden, as it makes it all feel so real. Baker once again uses mostly unknowns who feel less like they are acting and more like they are just living life. Prince is not the only performance that shines as Dafoe gives one of the better performances of his long and distinguished career. I just loved this movie; I love how it made me feel as well as what Sean Baker had to say. “The Florida Project” is a beautiful film in both looks and story and one you for sure want to experience.