Between this and Wonderstruck a few days ago, I am truly in coming-of-age heaven right now.
The Florida Project, the latest picture from the talented writer/director Sean Baker, is a film fanciful and funny for the most part, though not without the occasional gut punch. Its wondrous outlook on life, through the eyes of the child, makes it all the more devastating when tragic reality comes crashing in.
The delightful newcomer Brooklynn Prince portrays Moonee, a six-year-old firecracker who, despite residing in a grungy budget hotel in Orlando, finds ways to make the very most of her surroundings. She has pals with that same sky-high energy level - often times, the proceedings have the ebullient feel of The Little Rascals - and an endearing rapport with hotel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe), whose study exterior masks heaps of compassion and concern.
Moonee, of course, does not live alone - her lively routine is dependent on mom Halley (Bria Vinai), a hot mess who absolutely adores her daughter, keeping up on the weekly rent. Doing so proves exceedingly trying, as Halley moves in new and potentially dangerous directions to provide for her daughter.
The Florida Project isn't without its blemishes - it ends on a note that I found rather perplexing and unsatisfying. The final few minutes, however, are not enough to detract from the beauty of Prince's leading turn and the comparably convincing work from Dafoe (who's never been more understated) and Vinai (who adds layer upon layer to this untamed character). The picture also looks fabulous, with cinematography by Alexis Zabe.
Oh, and there's a scene in this thing with Moonee going to town on a breakfast buffet that is sure to land on my year-end list of favorite film moments. Amazing.