The Florida Project: Don’t Let Moonee’s Fortress Deceive You

This essay is by our guest writer, Nina Liang.

As a dweller of this hellhole state, I can assure you that The Florida Project is the only saving grace to come out of Florida since Publix’s BOGO deals. This film truly sets you up for a party-of-one crying fest and leaves you feeling so frustrated, heartbroken, and helpless. At least for me, those were the three most profound emotions I felt during the movie, which is one of the reasons why this film stood out to me. As filmmakers and storytellers like to say, there’s always a truth in every story; however, in a much deeper sense, The Florida Project is more real than you could say about most films because of the subject the film tackles. Many of us can’t say we know what it’s like to really empathize with Moonee’s childhood and yet, somehow it feels as if we’ve lived through it; the struggles of  poverty, an unstable home life, young motherhood – themes that are strongly prevalent in today’s society.

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Willem Dafoe and Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project (2017) © A24

Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), a precocious six-year-old, is a court jester disguised as the princess of the Magic Castle Motel. During her summer break, she and her little groupie go out of their way to cause mayhem for the residents and even manage to light an entire house on fire. However, while Moonee and her friends are off on their crazy adventures, the adults are left to pick up the pieces. At first glance, Moonee seems to only be a force of destruction but we soon realize that she’s learned to mirror this behavior from her young troubled mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite). Bobby (Willem Dafoe) the overseer and protector of his royal pink castle acts as a faux guardian to Moonee. He tries to keep everyone in check, but more importantly plays the main father figure role not only to Moonee but to Halley as well. While Moonee seems to be oblivious of the hardships around her, we see the adults dealing with unstable finances, implied drug use, and prostitution.

Continue reading “The Florida Project: Don’t Let Moonee’s Fortress Deceive You”

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The Florida Project: On wealth inequality, childhood and the myth of the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’

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‘The Florida Project’ is a film filled with sprawling images of pastel buildings, and drenched in a warmth so intense that it almost feels sickly. Such setting is used to depict an American summer that leads to the devastation of lives and the denial of a fair childhood, rather than one that allows children to enjoy their youth; to live out their early days in the safety of a permanent home, and in the happiness of the sun. Set at an outstandingly purple motel on the fringes of Disney World, ‘The Florida Project’ tells the story of Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), a six-year-old girl spending a long, languorous summer break wreaking havoc with her friends. In her makeshift castle, Moonee makes herself queen and roams around the land as if it is hers alone, seemingly unbothered by the lack of luxury that she grows up amongst. While other children spend Floridian summers in the company of Mickey Mouse and his fellow cartoon pals, Moonee spends hers helping her mother to sell perfumes to unwitting tourists. What is on display in ‘The Florida Project’ is the same kind of haunting, social realism that is found in Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’. Neither film makes any kind of attempt to hide the striking poverty that ravages modern America, nor does either attempt to romanticise it. Moonee may be able to run around freely in the swampy surroundings of Disney’s outskirts, but she also has to run to the diner at which a friend’s mother works, in order to secure a dinner for the evening. An ice cream, for example, is only guaranteed if she tells strangers that she needs it for her asthma. Meanwhile, on the other side of a fence, thousands upon thousands of kids are given the greatest time of their young lives. Continue reading “The Florida Project: On wealth inequality, childhood and the myth of the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’”