I am never disappointed in the quality of films that A24 produces.
In the few A24 films I’ve seen in the past year, I have not been disappointed. Lady Bird evoked nostalgia and teenage boredom and angst (better than the film adaptation of Perks of Being a Wallflower, honestly). A Ghost Story took a more universal approach, making the viewer consider their place in time, and the desperation that follows you throughout your own.
The Florida Project, a member of the A24 film canon, conjured a totally different set of feelings.
As a ghost-like observer to the lives of young children, mainly Moonee and her friends, roaming the stream-filled yards and in between spaces of two low-rent, long-stay motels in Orlando, Florida, your eyes become open.
Open to that fact that “street children” exist in America. We all know that though, or at least you will…I’m sure you’ve encountered our brand of impoverished children at least once in your life: sticky, sleep permanently crusted to their eyes, hair frizzed in a carefree neglect, kids that make you wonder where their parents are…
If not, the Florida Project will introduce you to them. The film’s beautiful framing—transfering you from the street side of tacky tourist shops, to the neon signs of high evenings—is a story, mostly about parenthood and childhood— i.e. who parents these American “street children” as one unfortunate tourist called Moonee and her friend.
Moonee, for all intensive purposes raises herself. She chooses her siblings, crafts profanity infused ways of grabbing treats, and fills her days doing whatever she wants, however she wants, like the feral offspring of a lost house cat. Her mother, Halley, spends her days smoking weed in their hotel room, sometimes lamenting that she was laid off from her “dancing” job. She cares for her daughter, we all see that, but we also see a stunted person, a person whose maturity, temper, or sense of direction seems akin to her daughter—childlike. While less innocent as her daughter, Halley mirrors Mooney. Both fill their days just trying to get by, occasionally interrupted by authority.
The landlord, aka, motel manager, Bobby acts as the motel’s patriarch, and provides the only form of stability in the story. He knows he’s a slumlord, yet his tenants are his family. He’s the closest thing to a father figure to Moonee she may ever receive, at least for her stay at the motel, and he’s really the only one who watches out for her well-being. Like not ever evicting her rule-breaking mother or beating up the potential child predator that begins to lurk around the complex’s children.
The movie shows the dirt under painted fingernails. While Orlando is known for its family vacations, it shows that even in a town that people save their whole lives for a once in a lifetime visit, poverty, crime, and children depending on bread trucks exist.
Though, hope is not lost, we see. And while Mooney and her friends may just be Orlando street children, we see that there are people out there that do care about them, and make hard choices to give them better, safer lives.