I can think of quite a few projects for the state of Florida to work on if they’re taking suggestions, but the wonderfully humane, heartbreakingly kind film called “The Florida Project” takes an unexpected route. Writer-director Sean Baker, whose “Tangerine” was also a warm visit with people on the fringes of society (transgender hookers, in that case), here presents a slice of life from the cheap motels of Orlando — in the shadow of Disney — where desperate, transient parents and their children eke out a surprisingly happy day-to-day existence with their temporary friends. Find joy wherever you can, you know?
Exuberant 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her turquoise-haired mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite), who can’t be more than about 23, find joy by visiting Halley’s friend Ashley (Mila Murder) at the waffle house down the street, getting free meals in exchange for Halley “watching” Ashley’s kid, Scooty (Christopher Rivera), while she’s at work. The most honest thing Halley does for income is buying knock-off cologne and perfume wholesale and reselling it on the street. She has other methods, too, though, which become problematic later on.
Moonee doesn’t know about any of that. She and Scooty spend their days mostly unsupervised (it’s summer; no school anyway), trotting around their motel, the Magic Castle, and the one next door, Futureland. (These dumps’ aspirational names are a mixture of amusing and sad. Get used to that combination.) They make a new friend, Jancey (Valeria Cotto), who lives with her Grandma Stacy (Josie Olivo), whose daughter got pregnant at 15. Moonee, precociously belligerent and already swearing at a 10th-grade level, gives the new kid a door-to-door tour of the motel:
[Continue reading at Crooked Marquee.]
B+ (1 hr., 55 min.; )