The Florida Project

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The Florida Project
The Florida Project.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySean Baker
Written by
Produced by
  • Sean Baker
  • Chris Bergoch
  • Kevin Chinoy
  • Andrew Duncan
  • Alex Saks
  • Francesca Silvestri
  • Shih-Ching Tsou
CinematographyAlexis Zabé
Edited bySean Baker
Distributed byA24
Release dates
  • May 22, 2017 (2017-05-22) (Cannes)
  • October 6, 2017 (2017-10-06) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[2]
Box office$11.3 million[3]

The Florida Project is a 2017 American coming of age drama film directed by Sean Baker and written by Baker and Chris Bergoch. It stars Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, and Caleb Landry Jones. It was the first film appearance for many of the cast. The slice of life plot follows a six-year-old girl living with her unemployed single mother in a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, as they try to stay out of trouble and make ends meet, to keep ahead of impending homelessness. The hardship of their life in Kissimmee is contrasted with nearby Walt Disney World. The title of the film refers to the initial codename for Walt Disney World during its early planning stage.[4]

The Florida Project premiered in the Directors' Fortnight section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and was released theatrically in the United States on October 6, 2017, by A24. The film was acclaimed by critics, who lauded Baker's direction and the performances, particularly those of Dafoe, Prince, and Vinaite. It was chosen by both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of the year.[5][6] Dafoe earned Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and BAFTA Awards.[7][8] Prince won the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer.


While Bergoch was visiting his mother in Orlando, he noticed a lot of children playing in motel parking lots. Baker has said that he has always been inspired by the Our Gang films because the characters "were actually living in poverty, but the focus was the joy of childhood, the humor that comes from watching and hearing children."[9][10]


Six-year-old Moonee lives with her young single mother Halley in the Magic Castle, a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, near Walt Disney World. She spends most of her summer days unsupervised with her motel-resident friends Scooty and Dicky, engaging in mischief. Bobby, the manager of Magic Castle, is protective of the children. After the kids are caught spitting on a guest's car at Futureland, the motel next door, Dicky's father restricts him from playing with Moonee and Scooty for a week.

While cleaning up the car, they get to know its owner, Stacy and her granddaughter Jancey, who are living at Futureland. Jancey and Moonee quickly become friends. Later on, Dicky's family relocates to New Orleans, which saddens the group, but Dicky's father gives his son’s toys to the kids because they have no more room in their packed car.

Moonee and Scooty come across a Brazilian tourist couple at night, who are on their honeymoon. The woman wanted to go to Walt Disney World for her honeymoon and the man's assistant mistakenly booked a room at the Magic Castle instead. While watching the couple bicker about the misunderstanding, Moonee tells Scooty that she always knows when adults are about to cry.

Halley loses her job as an exotic dancer, which affects her eligibility for TANF benefits. She explains to the benefits officer that she was fired after refusing to have sex with clients at the strip club, but it is not seen as an extenuating circumstance. Unable to get a job at the diner and struggling to pay rent, Halley hawks perfume to tourists in hotel parking lots. Since the children are on summer vacation, she also babysits Scooty during the day in exchange for meals from Scooty's mother Ashley—who takes them from the diner where she works.

Halley does not keep a watchful enough eye on the children, even after a scolding from Bobby. Despite his regular work and trying to host his adult son, who occasionally comes to visit and help with work around the motel, Bobby tries to monitor the kids, but their mischief grows increasingly dangerous. They break into the motel's electrical room, causing a blackout. Bobby also catches, beats, and ejects a pedophile talking to the kids in the parking lot. When Ashley discovers that the kids had inadvertently burned down an abandoned condominium complex, she forbids Scooty from hanging out with Moonee, and cuts off her friendship (and meals) from Halley.

Needing money for food and rent, Halley begins soliciting sex work online, keeping Moonee in the bathroom with loud music when she has a client. When she steals a client's Disney resort passes to scalp them, the man returns to demand them back. Bobby scares him off, but restricts guests in her motel room and warns Halley that he will evict her if the prostitution continues. Desperate, Halley approaches Ashley to apologize and ask for money. When Ashley instead threatens her with violence, Halley attacks and beats her in front of Scooty. The next day, the DCF turn up at Halley's door to investigate her. She cleans up the room and gives away her weed but remains defiant. She takes Moonee to a resort hotel restaurant, where they charge the meal to a guest's room.

When they return to the motel, the DCF and the police are waiting to take Moonee into foster care pending investigation. Moonee says goodbye to Scooty, who lets slip that Moonee is going to a new family. Distraught, Moonee escapes the DCF to find Jancey, who, after seeing Moonee's shocking despair, takes her hand as the two run away to the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World.


  • Brooklynn Prince as Moonee, a six-year-old girl
  • Bria Vinaite as Halley, Moonee's mother
  • Willem Dafoe as Bobby Hicks, the manager of The Magic Castle Motel
  • Christopher Rivera as Scooty, Moonee's friend
  • Mela Murder as Ashley, Scooty's mother
  • Valeria Cotto as Jancey, Moonee's new friend
  • Josie Olivo as Grandma Stacey, Jancey's grandmother
  • Aiden Malik as Dicky, Moonee's friend who moves away
  • Edward "Punky" Pagan as Dicky's father
  • Caleb Landry Jones as Jack Hicks, Bobby's son
  • Macon Blair as Tourist John
  • Sandy Kane as Gloria


The Florida Project was shot on 35mm film and entirely on location in Osceola County, Florida.[11] The film's fictional Magic Castle motel was shot at the existing Magic Castle Inn & Suites located on U.S. Highway 192 in Kissimmee, nearly six miles away from the Walt Disney World Resort, in the summer of 2016.[12]

Baker filmed the final scene at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park clandestinely, using an iPhone 6S Plus without Disney's knowledge.[13][14] To maintain secrecy, the filming at the resort used only the bare minimum crew, including Baker, Bergoch, cinematographer Alexis Zabe, acting coach Samantha Quan, Cotto, Prince, and the girls' guardians.[14] Baker intended the ending to be left up to audience interpretation: "We've been watching Moonee use her imagination and wonderment throughout the entire film to make the best of the situation she's in—she can't go to Disney's Animal Kingdom, so she goes to the 'safari' behind the motel and looks at cows; she goes to the abandoned condos because she can't go to the Haunted Mansion. And in the end, with this inevitable drama, this is me saying to the audience, if you want a happy ending, you're gonna have to go to that headspace of a kid because, here, that's the only way to achieve it."[14]

In December 2017, producer Andrew Duncan stepped down from his role as financier of June Pictures after numerous allegations of sexual harassment.[15] Baker stated, in part: "While we did not witness nor have any knowledge of inappropriate behavior, we are of course deeply concerned about these allegations. I have been outspoken before and firmly believe that film sets and work environments absolutely must be safe spaces for everyone regardless of gender, age, race, or creed."[16][17]


Willem Dafoe's performance garnered widespread critical acclaim and earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

The film had its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival in the Directors Fortnight section on May 22, 2017.[18][19] Shortly after, A24 acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film,[20] which began a limited release in the U.S. on October 6, 2017.[21] Lionsgate released the film on Blu-ray, DVD, and download.

Critical response[edit]

The Florida Project received critical acclaim upon release, with particular praise focused on the direction and the performances of Prince, Dafoe and Vinaite. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, The Florida Project has an approval rating of 96% based on 316 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Florida Project offers a colorfully empathetic look at an underrepresented part of the population that proves absorbing even as it raises sobering questions about modern America."[22] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 92 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[23]

Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post wrote that "Dafoe delivers his finest performance in recent memory, bringing to levelheaded, unsanctimonious life a character who offers a glimmer of hope and caring within a world markedly short on both."[24] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "It's film that'll make you wince at times, and you'll most likely not want to see twice, but seeing it once is an experience you'll not soon forget."[25] However, Cassie da Costa of Film Comment criticized the film, writing, "Baker crudely renders his marginalized subjects because while he can imagine their daily realities he cannot fully fathom their inner lives."[26]



  1. ^ "THE PROJECT (15)". British Board of Film Classification. October 31, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  2. ^ O'Falt, Chris (October 6, 2017). "The Florida Project: How Sean Baker Almost Lost His Film Crew - IndieWire". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Florida Project (2017)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Sanza, Cristina (August 14, 2017). "VIDEO: First trailer for "The Florida Project" film highlights life at budget motel near Walt Disney World". Inside the Magic. JAK Schmidt. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  5. ^ "AFI Awards 2017". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  6. ^ Gelb, Andy; Purdy, Shawn; Trager, Rachael (November 28, 2017). "National Board of Review Announces 2017 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  7. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (December 11, 2017). "Golden Globe Nominations: Complete List". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  8. ^ "The Shape of Water leads Bafta nominations". BBC News. BBC. January 9, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  9. ^ Feinberg, Scott (November 1, 2017). "Savannah Film Fest: How 'The Little Rascals' Inspired 'The Florida Project'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 12, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Mark, Kermode (November 12, 2017). "The Florida Project review – thrillingly vibrant". the Guardian. Retrieved April 12, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Shanklin, Mary (October 15, 2017). "'Florida Project' film portrays life in Kissimmee hotels". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  12. ^ Luscombe, Richard (October 15, 2017). "In the shadow of Disney, living life on the margins". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  13. ^ Hakimi, Alexander (October 20, 2017). ""The Florida Project" Director Sean Baker on Working with Untrained Actors and Secret Filming in Disney World". Paper. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Lee, Ashley (October 11, 2017). "'The Florida Project': Director Sean Baker Explains How and Why He Shot That Ending". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  15. ^ Maddaus, Gene (December 15, 2017). "'Florida Project' Producer Steps Down Amid Harassment Claims". Variety. Retrieved December 12, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Baum, Gary Baum; Masters, Kim (December 15, 2017). "'Florida Project' Producer Accused of Sexual Harassment by a Dozen Insiders". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 12, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (December 15, 2017). "June Pictures Shakeup: Alex Saks Buys Out Financier Andrew Duncan Amid Allegation Cloud". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 12, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Fortnight 2017: The 49th Directors' Fortnight Selection". Directors Fortnight. Société des Réalisateurs de Films. Archived from the original on April 19, 2017. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  19. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (April 19, 2016). "Cannes: Juliette Binoche-Gerard Depardieu Drama to Kick Off Directors Fortnight". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  20. ^ Seetoodeh, Ramin; Lang, Brent (May 26, 2017). "A24 Buys Sean Baker's 'Florida Project' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  21. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (June 12, 2017). "Cannes Directors' Fortnight Title 'The Florida Project' Stakes Out October Date". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  22. ^ "The Florida Project (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 5, 2020.
  23. ^ "The Florida Project Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  24. ^ Hornaday, Ann (October 11, 2017). "Review | 'The Florida Project': Willem Dafoe delivers his finest performance in recent memory". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  25. ^ Roeper, Richard (October 12, 2017). "'The Florida Project' ably explores gloomy lives under sunny skies". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  26. ^ da Costa, Cassie. "Review: The Florida Project". Film Comment. Retrieved November 28, 2017.

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