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Film / The Florida Project

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The Florida Project is a 2017 drama film, directed by Sean Baker, who also wrote the screenplay with Chris Bergoch. It stars Willem Dafoe and an Amateur Cast consisting of Brooklynn Kimberly Prince, Bria Vinaite, and Valeria Cotto.

The film follows Moonee (Prince), a six-year old girl, and her mother, Halley (Vinaite) living in a cheap Kissimmee motel called the "Magic Castle", run by Bobby Hicks (Dafoe), who allows them and others living in poverty to remain in the motel as "extended-stay" guests.

During their summer break, Moonee and her friends wander around the run-down area with little-to-no supervision, embarking on adventures fueled by either their own sense of imagination or mischievousness. At the same time, Halley, having difficulty in keeping a job, desperately looks for ways of paying rent, even if it means resorting to less-than-legal means.

The title of the film was taken directly from Walt Disney World, as during its early pre-development, Walt Disney used "The Florida Project" as a Production Nickname.


  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Halley, whose actor Bria Vinaite was 23 when the movie was filmed. Assuming she's the same age in-universe as her actor in real life, that would make her about 16 or 17 when she had Moonee.
  • Aerith and Bob: The main cast is full of outlandish names like Moonee, Scooty, and Jancey alongside more ordinary names like Ashley and Bobby.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The film doesn't outright state what's to become of the two main characters but based on what has happened, it's highly unlikely that Halley will be allowed to take care of Moonee again.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The film is set in the part of Florida surrounding Walt Disney World, which mostly consists out of highways cutting through vast empty fields, with just a few buildings such as motels and restaurants scattered by the roads sparingly. However, the film makes it seem like almost all of the motels, restaurants, stores and even Walt Disney World are right next to one another, and that a child could easily run from Magic Castle to Walt Disney World, even though in reality the 2 places are 5 miles apart, while other stores and motels that supposedly neighbor one another are actually even further away in reality.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Moonee and Scooty. And they get away with it all the time.
  • Burping Contest: Halley suggests to her daughter that they have a burping contest at the diner where Ashley works. Interestingly enough, this is actually Played for Drama, as Halley convinces Moonee to do it to purposely humiliate Ashley (although, Moonee is unaware of that) in her own workplace for banning the two of them from seeing Scooty ever again, resulting in the deterioration of their friendship.
  • Celebrity Paradox: For one scene, Greg the Bunny, a show co-created by director Sean Baker, is playing on a TV.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The film starts off as a much more lighthearted romp about a ragtag group of troublemakers before veering into straight drama when Halley starts prostituting herself.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Scooty shows his stolen lighter minutes before it comes in handy to burn the pillow.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Halley tends to drop tons of swears into her speech — even if Moonee's around.
  • Counting to Three: Upon Bobby telling Halley that she must now have any guest that comes to her room register at the front office, she throws a massive fit, which leads to Bobby threatening to throw her out of the motel if she doesn't leave the office before he reaches the count of three.
  • Dirty Old Man: One of these walks onto the motel premises before being swiftly run off by Bobby in an awesome manner.
  • Disappeared Dad: All of the main kids but Dicky are shown living with a single mother (or in Jancey's case, a grandmother), and there's no explanation given as to what happened to their fathers.
  • Double-Meaning Title: As mentioned above, The Florida Project was Walt Disney's Production Nickname for Walt Disney World. The title also refers to the fact that the characters are living in poverty in the projects of Florida.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Moonee enters her and Halley's room for the first time, Halley is seen smoking weed in her room, despite the motel's "no smoking" policy. This establishes Halley as an irresponsible and rebellious woman.
  • Everybody Knew Already: Halley was somehow convinced that her side-job as a prostitute was a secret to the rest of the motel residents until Ashley stages an intervention.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: One of the signature shots in the film includes a rainbow arcing over the motel, a sight that's also present in the movie's (pictured) poster.
  • Fantasy Sequence: The final scene in the movie is this. When Moonee runs over to Jancey to tearfully tell her that this might be the last time they ever see each other, the scene abruptly turns into a daydream where Jancey grabs Moonee by the hand and runs away with her all the way into Walt Disney World. The film ends with them about to head into Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom.
  • Fatal Flaw: Throughout the film, it's clear that Halley's temper and attitude is the direct cause of much of her problems.
  • Flipping the Bird: Halley does it pretty much whenever someone irritates her. She even at one point encourages Moonee to do it to a passing overhead helicopter.
  • Foreshadowing: About midway through the film, Bobby kicks a prostitute and her john out of the motel. He later has to deal with Halley's side-job.
  • Free-Range Children: The film starts off with Moonee leading her group of friends through a variety of adventures in the run-down Kissimmee area, without any sort of supervision from their parents. However, Scooty's mother eventually comes to realize how much trouble he's been getting into while with the group, and as a result forbids him from hanging out with them again.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Bobby escorts a pedophile away from the pool. He puts on a friendly guise as he does so, he even buys him a soda, but the barely-veiled threat under his demeanor becomes steadily more obvious. Eventually he just smacks the drink out of the pervert's hand and puts enough rage in his voice to make sure the guy never comes back.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Thankfully, we don't get to see Gloria fully topless at the pool thanks to some clever implementation of this trope.
  • Happy Rain: When Halley senses that things are going south she goes with Moonee outside to enjoy the summer rain together.
  • Haunted House: Moonee and her friends, using their imagination, pretend that the abandoned condo they're playing in is actually haunted.
  • Heroic BSoD: This happens to Bobby, who by the end of the film is shocked by everything that has occurred with Halley and Moonee. As both Halley and Moonee have their own separate freak-outs, he sits alone in front of the motel to have a smoke, possibly feeling regret over the thought that things could've turned out differently had he intervened more.
  • Hope Spot: Halley makes a concerted effort to impress the DCF, only for them to reveal that they have security footage of her clients coming into her room, as well as her classified ad.
  • Hot-Blooded: It doesn't take much to get Halley to flip out., e.g. out when Ashley accuses her of prostituting herself with Scooty in the room. She also freaks out when DCF asks her to help calm Moonee down, leading her to scream and throw her bag at them, likely sealing her fate.
  • Implausible Deniability: Ashley calls out Halley's prostitution, using what appear to be Instagram photos of Halley in a bikini as evidence. Halley claims the photos aren't of her, despite displaying a prominent tattoo across her chest the entire film.
  • Improv: Much of the dialogue and interaction with the children was improvised by the child actors as they played together.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Moonee does this in front of Jancey at the end of the movie, fearing they may never see each other again.
  • Insult of Endearment: A reversal of this occurs. Halley and her friend Ashley affectionately refer to each other as "bitch", but the nickname becomes not-so-affectionate when their friendship disastrously falls apart.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Many of the parental figures, particularly Halley. She seems to not have her life together. She's rude, irresponsible, not always mature, and seems to make things seem like they are not her fault. However, as proven near the end of the movie, she has shown to deeply care for the kids and will go through hell and back to get them back safe.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Halley's not exactly wrong to point out that the police and DCF are taking Moonee away because she's unfit, yet they're the ones who let her run away.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Halley is poor, abrasive and vulgar with just about everyone.
  • Mama Bear: Even with her life falling apart, Halley still cares deeply for Moonee. Especially evident towards the end where she calls out child services for letting Moonee run away.
  • Mood Whiplash: The scene with the paedophile occurs about halfway through the movie, and even though the whole films becomes increasingly darker and even tragic near the end, this scene stands out because it has the greatest direct physical threat that any of the children face in the film, and also the only time Bobby physically attacks someone for real, instead of just acting strict.
  • Mouthscreen: This serves as the film's final shot of Halley, with her screaming obscenities in response to Child Services planning to take Moonee away from her.
  • Mr. Imagination: As a way of making the best out of their living conditions, Moonee and her friends frequently employ their own imagination when journeying through the Kissimmee strip.
  • My Nayme Is: "Halley" is not used as a common spelling of "Hailey" or "Hayley".
  • No Antagonist: Halley's struggle is with her own flaws.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: After Ashley insults Halley for her prostitution, Halley knocks her down onto the ground and then viciously punches her in the face repeatedly, all right in front of Scooty.
  • Noodle Incident: When Halley is confronted by the security of a nearby hotel for trying to sell perfume to people in the parking lot, she quickly grabs Moonee and runs away with her before the police can arrive. When Moonee asks why, Halley tells her that, "I can't get arrested again."
  • No Periods, Period: Averted; Halley sticks a used pad on the motel window in revenge against a hapless Bobby.
  • The Oner: The majority of the scene where Bobby confronts the pedophile from New Jersey is shot this way.
  • Parental Neglect: Halley is guilty of this to a decent extent, allowing Moonee to wander freely wherever and never disciplines her for the pranks she pulls on the motel guests. Ashley is initially like this towards Scooty as well, until she discovers that he and the other kids accidentally set an abandoned house on fire, which prompts her into keeping a close watch on him and forbidding him from hanging out with the other kids again, fearing that they've become a bad influence.
  • Papa Wolf: Although he's not their actual father, Bobby is arguably the best parental figure any of the kids have, and rather awesomely comes to the rescue when he sees a creepy old guy, presumably a pedophile, talking to the kids while there are no other adults around.
  • Parental Substitute: Bobby acts very protective towards the kids living in the motel and supervises them perhaps even more than their own parents do. This is especially demonstrated when he spots a likely pedophile interacting with the children, to which he immediately takes action and aggressively tosses the man out. He also tries to serve as sort of a father figure to Halley, much to her annoyance.
  • Poor Communication Kills: As Halley was unaware of Moonee's part in the fire, it's ambiguous whether Halley would have disciplined Moonie had Ashley just told her.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: With the exception of the first and final scenes, the film is entirely scoreless, including the closing credits.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Bobby, while strict at times, has completely reasonable rules for his guests and tries his hardest to accommodate them the best he can.
  • Scenery Gorn: The areas around the hotel tend to be broken-down and dilapidated, but the beautiful cinematography makes them look rather quaint and quirky.
  • Shadow Archetype: Halley to Ashley. Both are rebellious single mothers living in a run-down, crappy motel, but there are key differences between the two. While Halley is unable to keep a job, often has to do shady things in order to pay the rent, lets Moonee do whatever she wants (which often has horrible results) and throws profane tantrums when something doesn't go her way, Ashley has an actual job at a diner, actually tries to parent Scooty, and is more mature in her relationships.
  • Shoo the Dog: A recurring and temporary example. Halley makes Moonee take long bubble baths while she has customers over, both to protect Moonee and to make herself more desirable to her clientele. It doesn't last, after one of the men needs to use the bathroom and finds Moonee inside.
  • Shout-Out: Several to Disney's version of Pinocchio.
    • In the abandoned condos, there is graffiti with the names Alexander and Lampwick, two of the bad boys who were turned into donkeys.
    • The aforementioned Dirty Old Man is named Charles Coachman, after the Coach driver who takes Pinocchio to Pleasure Island.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Halley works as a stripper for a while, but is later fired, resulting in her having to find other ways of getting money. Towards the end of the movie, out of desperation, she begins to prostitute herself. Things don't end well for her and Moonee when word of this gets out.
  • Significant Name Overlap: invokedIn-Universe, a Brazilian couple briefly end up at the Magic Castle motel because the husband's brother booked their honeymoon there, thinking it was the more famous Magic Kingdom.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Halley very frequently curses throughout the movie, to the unfortunate point that Moonee herself begins to use swear words that she learned from her mother.
  • Slice of Life: There's no main plot to the movie or overarching danger toward the characters as a whole. Rather the movie is just scene after scene depicting the daily lives of the Magic Castle tenants. At least until Halley screws everything up for her and her daughter.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Halley never has enough money, which leads to her becoming a prostitute.
  • Tagline: "Find your kingdom."
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Halley throws up in her toilet after beating up Ashley.
  • Womanchild: Halley is unable to hold a job and often has to result to illegal activities in order to pay for rent (and sometimes uses the money on non-necessities). She's also very immature in her relationships with others, and in one scene she even throws an outright temper-tantrum in response to Bobby imposing some new rules on her, which makes Bobby have to treat her as if she were his bratty little daughter.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Halley and Ashley start off as best friends until Ashley prohibits Scooty from seeing Moonee after she realizes the group of kids is responsible for the abandoned condos burning down. This leads to Halley beating Ashley near the end of the film, and it's implied Ashley is the one who called the DCF on Halley.