Movie Review - The Florida Project
The movie also shows us other people in the motel who struggle as well, but those other people don't seem as dire. At least, one of the mother's friends named Ashley has a job. She's a waitress at a lowly diner. It's not the best in the world, but she's not forced into prostitution, which Halley is. Halley also panhandles on the streets or near tourist destinations like fancier hotels. She mostly scams people or steals, finding ways to get stuff for free.
Baker does a good job of showing all of this, but he doesn't do a great job of explaining it. Both Halley and her daughter Moonee are pretty insufferable, even after a while, which is fine as characters in a film. I don't have to like them, but I do have to understand them, which Baker fails to do.
I never understood where Halley came from, what got her into this present situation and why she's doing what she's doing. There's not much context in that regard. Without much context, I'm not sure what's to be learned or what the takeaway is, besides being within a stone's throw of the beautiful luxury that is Walt Disney World, there exists such poverty.
Earlier this year, Netflix released the movie Imperial Dreams, which is also about an impoverished, single parent, except instead of it being a mother and daughter, it was a father and son, and both were black. There aren't many films about single fathers who are black. There have been plenty of films about white single mothers. Most are romantic comedies or even romantic dramas that often don't deal with this level of poverty and usually not through the lens of a child, particularly a little girl. Baker's film has to be given credit for that.
In terms of cinematic expression, Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) triumphs over this one in depicting a little girl in an impoverished situation. It might not have the verisimilitude of this film, but, in those terms, I prefer The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete (2013), which tells the story of an impoverished woman through the lens of her son. That movie provides more context, context that helps to understand the underlying issues.
Brooklynn Prince also stars as Moonee, the 5 or 6-year-old girl at the center of all this. She's basically a little girl being a little girl. Time will tell, if she ever is in another movie, how good an actress she is. I was certainly not impressed with her performance as I was with some of the incredible, child performances from last year like Alex R. Hibbert from Moonlight, Sunny Pawar from Lion, Royalty Hightower in The Fits, Michael Barbieri in Little Men, Lulu Wilson in Ouija: Origin of Evil and Jahking Guillory in Kicks.
What killed it was the last few minutes of the film. Prince is forced to cry. I say, "forced," because it looked forced. The camera is shoved in her face and she has to give this big explosion of tears, and I simply didn't buy it or it felt for the first time in the whole film like Baker directing something that probably didn't come naturally or easily.
Rated R for language, disturbing behavior, sexual references and some drug material.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 55 mins.