|Florida Project's cast in crew in the filmmmaker's box at the NYFF after the premiere screening|
The film follows six year old Moonee as she spends her summer off living in the Magic Castle Motel near Disney World. We watch as she and her friends go through their day, how her mom tries to get enough money to pay the rent and the comings and going of people in the motel.
An often very funny film the film has a dark underbelly since what we are seeing is life on the very edge as Moonee's mom and the people living at the motel often have to take extreme steps to stay alive (prostitution, drugs, theft). Its been argued that since kids are involved the film has been softened I'm not sure that's wholly the case since what we are seeing is often pretty dark, we just don't see all because we are seeing, mostly, just what the six year olds see. If you think about what is going on the film becomes less funny since we see the sadness and cruelty involved.
What completely shocks me is that no one is discussing the fact that Moonee is an absolute monster of a child. She is loud, shrill and a self absorbed terror. She is on her way to becoming an sociopathic nightmare as a result of her upbringing. Everyone laughs it off, people leaving the NYFF screening before the Q&A were calling her charming, and she is, but there is an totally lightless side to her that I don't think they were aware of or refused to see.
If you think about it Moonee is one of the scariest screen villains of all time. She is a villain in part because of what she does, (spitting on a car, burning down a house, scamming ice cream) and partly because if you project forward, say ten years on, you realize she is going to be like her mother because she has already learned how to play the system and to not take any responsibility. While she could be saved by a loving family and Child Protective Services I'm going to bet she won't and in the end she will be even worse than her mother.
Watching Moonee and her friends go through their paces I was was frequently laughing, but most of the laughs caught in my throat. These are either horrible people or people heading to destruction. I like them, I pitied them and I feared for them.
That I felt so strongly is the result of Sean Baker's excellent cast. All of the newcomers are very good with the kids being excellent across the board. Willem Dafoe is Oscar worthy as Bobby, the motel manager who tries to keep it all on an even keel.
I really liked THE FLORIDA PROJECT a great deal, and I may end up loving it, but right now I have to process how I feel about the black side and figure out what exactly Sean Baker's attitude towards it really is... which is a clear indication that the film is much better than the "light" comedy it seems to be.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT plays again at the NYFF October 3rd. For tickets and more information go here.