The Florida Project

Director: Sean Baker
Year Released: 2017
Rating: 3.0

Six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), who lives with her tatted mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) in a motel in the Sunshine State (just outside of Disney World), runs around with her friends spitting on cars, begging, harassing people and burning down an abandoned housing complex while Mom scams people and prostitutes herself to pay the rent. Most movies don't touch on the subject of poverty in America, but Baker, along with co-screenwriter Chris Bergoch, have the guts to not only go for it, but to try to work with very young kids, who I can't imagine are easy the easiest to direct (they're hard enough to teach in a classroom) - the anarchistic scenes with the screechy scamps reminds me of Chytilov√°'s Daisies, and are oftentimes just as grating (someone discipline them!). It is a tad light on background details of its inhabitants, making it a surface-level examination of sketchy-types-who-end-up-on-Cops, but then there's Willem Dafoe's too-understanding surrogate father, protecting these lost souls and holding the movie together. It ends on a strong note (shot on a handy iPhone), taking Moonee on a temporary trip to what's referred to as "The Happiest Place on Earth" ... where children like her actually belong.