Film review: ‘The Florida Project’ portrays memories of carefree childhood

The lavender Magic Castle Motel sits a few miles away from Disney World. Motel manager Bobby Hicks (Willem Dafoe) does his best to keep the motel a respectable place and looks out for his tenants, many who stay for an extended amount of time. One of the tenants, 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), sometimes creates havoc for Bobby.

Moonee and her friends Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and Jancey (Valeria Cotto) run around the slums of Orlando, often creating mischief for the adults in the area. The kids look cute at first, but grow irritable about five minutes in as they often swear and disrespect authority. People who are not fond of children may regret entering the theater.

Moonee’s mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) is not the best role model, openly smoking and swearing around her kid, but she is a good mother at heart by providing a fun summer with little to no money on a regular basis.

The film feels like many vignettes put together, helping it zip through the summer from a story perspective. But some scenes drag on, making the 115-minute running time feel longer.

Willem Dafoe’s acting is top-notch, and his work in “The Florida Project” may land him an Oscar nomination. His character Bobby is often stressed while dealing with fights among his tenants, trying to get an old lady to not bathe topless when children are out, and warding off a pedophile, but he cares deeply everyone who stays at the motel. He even creates a loophole for Moonee and Halley to live there as a permanent residence is not allowed.

“The Florida Project” features growth, a sense of close community and heartbreak (all over the course of a summer) through a children’s point of view, bringing back memories of summer vacation during elementary school. The film is currently playing at The Ross Media Arts Center and ends its run on Nov. 23.