The Florida Project (2017)
Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Walt Disney World.
Halley lives with her six year old daughter Moonee in a budget motel along one of the commercial strips catering to the Walt Disney World tourist clientele outside Orlando, Florida. Halley, who survives largely on welfare, has little respect for people, especially those who cross her, it an attitude that she has passed down to Moonee, who curses and gives the finger like her mother. Although the motel's policy is not to allow long term rentals, Bobby, the motel manager, has made arrangements for people like Halley to live there while not undermining the policy as he realizes that many such tenants have no place to go otherwise. Halley, Moonee and Moonee's friends, who live in the motel or others like it along the strip and who she often drags into her disruptive pranks, are often the bane of Bobby's existence, but while dealing with whatever problem arises, Bobby has a soft spot especially for the children and thus, by association, their parents, as he knows that Moonee and others like her are just children acting like a children under whatever guidance they have, Moonee who has less guidance than most. Although there are some lines which he will not tolerate to be crossed, Bobby lets most of the disruptive things that they do go, largely as long as it does not affect the bread and butter of the motel, namely the tourist trade. The summer in this collective is presented, when Moonee and her friends, such as Scooty, are out of school and are left largely to their own devices while self-absorbed Halley does whatever she wants, often just staying in the room watching TV. Halley is supposed to look after Scooty, the son of Halley's friend Ashley, they who live in the unit immediately underneath Halley and Moonee's, while Ashley is at work at a local diner. In turn, Ashley pilfers cooked meals from the diner to feed Halley, Moonee and Scooty. Over the course of the summer, Halley systematically begins to alienate one by one the people who are her unofficial support by responding with that disrespect to anything she feels is against her. As such, Halley begins to take more and more extreme measures to maintain the life she leads with Moonee.
In the shadow of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the Magic Castle--a garishly painted rundown motel crammed with the imperceptible homeless who can't afford a proper accommodation--is the unenchanting world the struggling ex-stripper single mother, Halley, and her fearless six-year-old daughter, Moonee, call home. But for the mischievous Moonee and her riotous gang of best friends, this place is also a magical playground of endless adventure and a blissful Utopia nestled inside innocence's protective bubble; nevertheless, the illusion of a carefree life comes at a high price, as young Halley takes increasingly greater risks to make ends meet. Over the course of a single summer, childhood's wide-eyed moments of wonder together with the reckless transgressions of youth and an inevitable ugly confrontation will attempt to blemish the mother-and-daughter idyll. However, do shadows exist in the realm of fantasy?
Moonee lives in the shadow of the happiest place on earth. And for her, maybe it is. The little girl calls the Magic Kingdom home-not Disney World itself, but rather a garish pink hotel so close to the famous resort that she can hear the fireworks from the parking lot each night. She's never seen Cinderella's Castle, never taken the Jungle Cruise, never plunged down the waterfall in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, never took a spin in those blasted teacups. No matter: Orlando's kitschy tourist strip is all the wonderland she needs.
Six-year-old Monique (Moonee) lives with her young 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, mooching from tourists, stealing, and other misbehavior. After the three children are caught spitting on a guest's car, Dicky's father restricts him from playing with Moonee and Scooty. While cleaning up the guest's car they had spat on, Moonee meets Jancey, a child living at the Futureland motel next door, and invites her to hang out with them. Later on, Dicky's family relocates to New Orleans, which saddens the group. Bobby, the manager of Magic Castle, is protective of the children..
- In Kissimmee, Florida, a little boy named Dicky (Aiden Malik) runs to his friends, six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera), and brings them to a nearby seedy motel, called Future Land. The three kids run up to the second floor balcony and start spitting on a car. The car's owner, Stacy (Josie Olivo), comes out and reprimands the children, just as Moonee spits on Stacy's granddaughter Jancey (Valeria Cotto).
Stacy goes next door to the Magic Castle Motel where the kids stay. She gets the manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), to knock on the door of Moonee's room. Her young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) answers and is told by Bobby about the issue. The kids are then forced to go clean up Stacy's car.
Halley and her daughter Moonee live at the Magic Castle for an extended stay since they are poor, as are most of the other residents in the motel, including Scooty and his teenage mother Ashley (Mela Murder), who works at a restaurant and hooks Moonee up with free food for her and her mom. Halley previously worked as a stripper but was fired after a couple of days and is struggling to come up with rent money.
Another day later, Moonee and Scooty go out to play and go look for Dicky, but his father has him grounded for the spitting incident. The kids then go to Future Land and invite Jancey to hang out with them. They walk across the strip and go to an ice cream shop where they ask for change from strangers so that they can purchase and share a single ice cream cone.
That evening, Moonee and Scooty witness a young tourist couple that arrives at the motel by mistake since they meant to get booked at the Magic Kingdom hotel next to the Walt Disney World parks, but instead got sent to the crummy motel.
The kids spend their summer break together from school around the motel or the general neighborhood. They spy on a middle-aged woman sunbathing topless, just as Bobby comes by to tell the woman to cover up. On another occasion, the kids sneak into the maintenance room and turn off the power to the motel, causing everyone to get angry since it's a hot day. Bobby must run to the room and flip the power back on.
Another day or so later, Dicky and his father leave the motel to move to New Orleans after Dicky's father has landed a new job. They give the other kids some of Dicky's old toys before saying goodbye to his friends.
Moonee, Jancey, and Scooty go play by an abandoned house where they start breaking things and messing around. Scooty uses a lighter he stole and sets fire to a pillow under a chimney. This causes a big fire that spreads throughout the house. The kids run back to their homes to avoid getting in trouble. The other Magic Castle residents head over to see the house burning as firefighters try to put it out. Ashley suspects Scooty of being involved and she forbids him from hanging out with Moonee anymore.
In response to Ashley's new rule, Halley brings Moonee to the restaurant where she works and makes Ashley take her order and bring them a lot of food, which Moonee quickly eats. Halley then makes Ashley pack the uneaten food to go, but Halley just tosses it on the walk back to the motel.
One day, while painting outside the motel, Bobby notices an old man, named Charlie (Carl Bradfield), wandering where the kids are playing. Suspicious that the man might be a pedophile looking to abduct one or more of the kids, Bobby approaches him and asks Charlie what he's doing around there. He claims to have been looking for a soda vending machine, so Bobby takes him to one. After getting him his soda, Bobby suddenly smacks it out of Charlie's hand and aggressively sends him away, even going as far as to taking Charlie's wallet so he gets his name and home address to call in to the sheriff's office should he ever come around the motel again.
Another few days later, Halley takes Moonee around town selling perfume so she can round up some money. This stops when they come across a country club and a security guard catches them. The guard tries to get Halley to go to the office to wait for the cops, but Halley tries to make off with her bag of perfume before the guard pulls it and takes some of the perfume that falls out.
Another day later, Halley steals and sells four Magic Kingdom bands in the parking lot of a discount ticket stand.
Halley then starts secretly working as a prostitute while keeping Moonee hidden in the bathroom, occupied by taking a bath. One of the Johns (Macon Blair) returns to confront Halley at her room over the magic bands she stole from him, while Halley feigns ignorance. Bobby comes by to settle the issue, indicating he knows what Halley's been doing, but he speaks on her defense and sends the John away. However, Bobby orders Halley to have any visitors of hers check in at the front desk. Halley throws a fit and follows Bobby into the lobby, where he threatens to kick her out if she doesn't leave the lobby. She does so but then sticks a used menstrual pad on the window.
Because none of the residents of the motel are legally allowed to take up permanent residence, they exploit a loophole by staying at a nearby motel for one night a month before returning to their rooms. Bobby tries to send Halley and Moonee to another motel down the road, the Arabian Nights, which had previously agreed to a special low rate for these nights. When Halley gets there, the new owner tells her that the price has been raised by $10. Halley makes a scene again and forces Bobby to go there to talk to the managers where they inform him that they are no longer honoring the arrangement they had with the previous owners. Bobby offers to pay the difference, but the managers are so disgusted with Halley and Moonee's belligerent behavior that they refuse to allow them to stay. Halley dumps her drink out onto the floor of the office and storms out. Halley and Moonee stay the night with Stacey and Jancey at Future Land.
Back at the Magic Castle, Halley goes to Ashley's room to try and make amends but also to ask her to spot her for rent money. Ashley tells her everyone in the motel knows about her prostituting herself and threatens her if she finds out Scooty was up there while Halley did that. Halley responds by attacking Ashley and hitting her until she gets a black eye. Halley returns to her room, vomits into the toilet and then cries on the floor. The next day, agents of the Department of Children and Families arrive to interview Halley and Moonee. When they leave, Halley and Moonee clean the room together and Halley gives the last of her drugs away.
The next morning, after taking Moonee to a nearby hotel to eat the complimentary breakfast, Halley returns to her room to find DCF agents and two police officers at her door. They are investigating her work as a prostitute and are going to send Moonee to live with a foster family. Moonee is brought to Ashley's room to say bye to her and Scooty. Halley starts to act aggressively toward the agents and officers, just as Moonee is resisting one of the social workers trying to calm her down and take her away. Moonee runs away, leading the agents and officers to go looking for her.
Moonee runs to Future Land to Jancey's room. She starts crying and is unable to say what's wrong. Jancey takes Moonee's hand and runs away with her, going all the way on foot to Walt Disney World park and running to the Magic Kingdom castle... and the movie ends here.