Plot: Just outside the gates of Disney Worlds is The Magic Castle motel, a much different place than the magical realm Walt Disney built. The motel is home to mostly low income residents who engage in frequent drama with each other, but also have an odd sense of community. Halley (Bria Vinaite) is a single mother who tries to raise her daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) at the motel, but struggles to make ends meet and is always on the brink of eviction. The two buy cheap colognes and perfumes wholesale, then lurk in parking lots of high end locales and try to resell the aromatics, to earn a little extra cash and make rent. Bobby (Willem Dafoe) manages the motel and while he deals with a lot of upset and rude people, he has an affection for those who reside at The Magic Castle and tries to be a positive presence. The movie follows the goings on at The Magic Castle over one eventful summer.
Entertainment Value: This is one of those movies that is almost impossible to describe and do justice to, as it centers on the activities of a mother and daughter, but has little of the usual Hollywood family dynamics involved. The real draw of The Florida Project is how authentic the entire experience feels, this never rings hollow in the least and just pulls you into the world of these characters. The social dynamics at the motel echo that realism, giving us characters that don’t feel like stereotypes, but real, flawed people in less than ideal conditions. Halley wants to make a better life for herself and Moonee, but can’t find work and struggles with her own inner demons, so she isn’t the typical single mom archetype at all. The bond between Halley and Moonee is remarkable, especially for two inexperienced performers and it drives The Florida Project, a relationship that is dysfunctional, but filled with love. Willem Dafoe would garner immense praise for his work here as well and with good reason, as he vanishes into the role and his star power never distracts from the narrative or atmosphere. The narrative gets lost at times, but that is due more to the immersion of the environment and performances, not so much a weak narrative element. The Florida Project is a memorable movie, one that really nails the kind of authenticity most films can only dream of.
No nakedness. There’s a scene where the kids spy on a topless sunbather, but it is shown from a distance and little can be seen. The scene is quite humorous however, especially once Dafoe confronts the woman and she refuses to cover herself. No blood. The movie has some mild violence at times, such as fist fights, arson, and of course, a used maxi pad, but bloodshed is minimal at worst. But the movie does a fantastic job of making the motel seem like a chaotic, on edge locale where anything could happen, which adds tension to a lot of the scenes. The dialogue feels raw and authentic, with a lot of drama, confrontation, and dysfunction woven in, so it can be fun, but also a little dark at times in some scenes. Moonee is an almost constant source of hilarious lines, but both Halley and Moonee are quite outlandish at times when interacting with others, which of course is just what I like to hear. As outrageous as some of the dialogue is, it feels natural and driven by the characters, so it retains that believable charm found in the rest of the movie’s elements. As for craziness, this one is populated with colorful characters, odd situations, and wild dialogue, so it earns some points, but The Florida Project is also quite grounded, so it rarely feels totally off the deep end.
Overall Insanity: 3/10