Rated R
115 Minutes
Released October 1

The Florida Project is filled with brilliant elements. They flow like water bursting through a dam and coursing down a hillside while dividing into thousands of little streams.

You watch the streams meander – some pick up speed and brightness, some seem to lose their energy and sink into the ground… from time to time you get tired of watching them.

Sometimes you follow them and sometimes you don’t.

This movie is delightful footage in search of a writer and editor. Director Sean Baker has let the camera roll as we watch the daily lives of some colorful and poignant characters living in a seedy neighborhood of down-and-out Florida motels near Disney World.

The film feels like an unedited reality show, or perhaps like an Andy Warhol movie.

Baker definitely has a gift for pulling incredible performances from very inexperienced actors, and casting director Carmen Cuba (who is very experienced) has found him some unknown young performers endowed with extraordinary natural talent and rare intelligence.

I’m sure we will see more from these kids. Brooklynn Prince plays the lead “Moonee,” around whom the whole movie revolves, with confidence, humor and great delight. Valeria Cotto plays Moonee’s best friend “Jancey” with a quiet sense of exploration as if analyzing every minute of their experiences.

This is her first project as an actor. The one “name” in the film, Willem Dafoe, gives his character, motel manager “Bobby,” an engaging, complex and warm countenance – a switch from most his past roles.

Bobby is that rare property manager who sees his tenants as his family.

He feels their pain when they can’t make rent, yet he also has to be their counselor when they fail to take responsibility for their lives. Perhaps the most striking performance in the film comes from Bria Vinaite, who also had no prior experience on film. She embraces the character of Moonee’s well meaning yet “hot mess” of a mother with great natural instincts and without judgment. These are all truly remarkable performances.

These young people are living from day to day without guidance, scrambling for food and rent, in the shadows of the dream world of a Disney theme park, ironically a world where you can “wish upon a star.” Probably their own parents led a similar existence and they have learned to use a creative and often dark resourcefulness in managing to provide themselves with their daily food and shelter.

There is a superb movie here, if only it could be skillfully edited. It seems like an unfinished product – a rainbow of slices of life and vivid color strung together without a pattern. There are so many beautiful scenes, so many great moments in this movie. You will see comedy, tragedy, characters that have the strength to rise above the dire poverty of their existence.

A piece of art awash with bright performances and luscious color, this movie screams, “Please, please, someone edit me!”
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. For previously published reviews see