Willem Defoe (62) is perfect as the manager of The Magic Castle Motel. His rough exterior contains a heart of gold, and Defoe doesn't overdo either side of his character. He just is that manager. Wonderful acting! Bria Vivaite (24) was scouted on social media and plays Halley, the mother of Moonee, a six-year old girl who is living with her mother, father unknown. They live in a community of extended-stay guests at the motel, in Kissimmee, Florida, originally designed as an overflow motel for people visiting Disney World. Moonee is played by six-year-old Brooklyn Kimberley Prince. Moonee's close friend, Jancey, is played by six-year-old Valerie Cotto. Their acting is very fresh, and surprisingly good. This also could be said of the other actors.
Mooney's mother, Halley, is still a child herself and loves her little girl. They have fun together, and Halley does her best to mother the child, showing her love; however, Haley having "visitors" to her suite is not considered by the manager of the motel, or the child welfare people, to be good for the little girl. The film ends sadly as the authorities arrive to take Mooney from Halley, whom they see as an irresponsible mother. Mooney runs away from the officials, to Jancey. I felt my emotions were being manipulated as Moonee cries bitterly, which she does well. Jancey tells her she has the answer to her sadness. Together, hand in hand, they trot off into the sunset towards the Cinderella Magic Castle in Disney World.
Children running wild in a Florida summer, wasn't enough to hold the attention of two of my Film Group; they walked out and got their money back. As one friend said after the film, when we were all enjoying getting together in The Lounge at the Cineplex, she hopes she doesn't see any other children for a long time. Especially ones who scream all the time as the ones in the film seemed to do. It didn't really "grab" anyone else either as they were all agreed they wouldn't recommend The Florida Project to friends.
Taken as an anthropological or sociological study, the film is very interesting. It is realistic, and certainly depicts the challenges facing low-income people in trying to earn a living. Unskilled and unmannerly, they really don't present an attractive hiring prospect. The film ends sadly as the authorities arrive to take Mooney from Halley, whom they see as an irresponsible mother.
I was left with a feeling of sadness at the hopelessness of expecting low-income people to change their behaviour. Why should they? They don't want to change. Society is trying to socially engineer them by providing schools, health care, welfare programs, in the hope that they will change into more productive citizens. If they don't want to change, they will simply continue in the unacceptable behaviour that makes them not fit into society as contributors. They will remain "low-income." It's difficult to see how providing them with a Basic Income to replace present welfare programs would make any difference. I didn't like that feeling of having witnessed a deep tragedy.
I don't know if the message behind The Florida Project was that the children of low-income people are happy inspite of their circumstances. Perhaps there is no message, and this is simply meant to be a slice of real life. Either way, it really is not too entertaining. It certainly shows that the principles behind writing a good story as taught by the experts, are correct. I wouldn't recommend this film unless you need to pass some time rather mindlessly with uninspiring people.