The Florida Project

The Florida Project ★★★★½

Moonee lives in a castle of plaster, the princess of a kingdom of concrete founded in the state of the sun.

Every day in this muggy, endless summer sees her step outside the walls of the Magic Castle, the purple palace she calls home. The endless wilderness of mundanity lies before her: a giant orange, an uprooted tree, a wizard of gifts. Happiness is a word and is doing its best to be sold; Moonee just doesn't quite know how the world works yet.

The princess wanders the dregs of the Magic Kingdom, her eyes wide with hope and wonder at all that lies before her. Sure, there is strife; her mother has a foul temper and a mouth to match it, her friendships are an ever-revolving door of people who find themselves in the family of hotels in the shadow of Cinderella's Castle, and there are days where the joy of Florida slips, rainy muggy nights where the CRT alone cannot fulfill the needs of her heart.

Moonee's life is captured with empathy just as everyone else's is, this kind of poverty demystified into the deeply human phenomenon we should be addressing it as. It's a problem without a solution for all those families whose ability to love is challenged by their misfortune to maintain financial stability, for all the pressures they face and struggles they suffer will feel inescapable as the debt mounts up. She has people who care for her, be it her mother or those who live in the strange sort of family that binds these hotels with one common heart. Still, is it enough?

I often wonder how these worlds operate, ones seemingly so predatory in their need to survive in the wake of the behemoths that loom over them. You cannot go to Disney without witnessing all that Disney has left in its wake, roads named after its property, an empire of excess stretching in incomprehensibly consuming ways beyond the boundaries of its real estate. What I tend to forget from my position of privelage is what Sean Baker is so intensely passionate about capturing, with some of the most heartbreaking empathy I have ever seen in fiction:

Everyone has a story and everyone has a dream. When the world closes in on you and the plaster chips away, sometimes dreams are all we have left.

I wonder how many Moonees there are in the world, as the concrete kingdom expands its reach with each passing day? I wonder how many more moments of euphoric beauty we will be able to see in the world before we go back into our rooms, into the reality that defines our lives?

Above all else, I wonder how happy Moonee really was before the dream slipped away, as the peace of the castle was interrupted by the roar of the helicopters and screams of the highway.

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