Class Division and “The Florida Project”

The Florida Project (2017) directed by Sean Baker, follows Halley (Bria Vinaite) & her young daughter, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), and their life of poverty living in a motel on Highway 192, just down the road from Walt Disney World. The film showcases poverty through a child’s innocent and naive point of view, hence the bright color scheme seen throughout the film. Even though the deeper meaning behind The Florida Project is dark and sad, the movie mainly follows the children running around and having fun, oblivious to the situation they are living in. Because of this, up until the near end, the film can be watched as a fun, feel-good movie. 

The movie begins with Moonee, her neighbor Scooty, and their friend Dicky from a nearby motel running around and screaming with excitement for a new adventure. As the beginning credits roll, we see the bright purple color of the motel as “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang begins to play. In my opinion, I think Baker purposely chose “Celebration” as the song for the beginning of the movie as Celebration is the name of a Disney-created town just outside the park. So, while people struggle to just have a place to sleep right outside the parks, the wealthy can buy a Disney-owned vacation house right outside the parks.

The motel Halley and Moonee live in is called the Magic Castle Inn, which can symbolize that although the Magic Kingdom Park is just down the road from where they live, their lives are nothing near the magic that Disney World paints it out to be. The location and name of the Magic Castle Inn are very important to the meaning behind the film because it symbolizes just how close two completely different worlds can be to each other. At one point in the movie, Halley takes Moonee and her friend, Jancey to the yard of a nearby motel to watch the Disney World fireworks, which is likely the closest they will ever get to a Disney World vacation. 

At the end of the movie, the fairytale-like innocence is shattered as CPS comes to take Moonee away from Halley after Halley was caught illegally prostituting while Moonee was in the room as a way to make ends meet. Moonee is able to escape and runs off to find Jancey for help. The movie ends with Moonee and Jancey holding hands as they run away to Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom. 

While the ending is not to be taken literally, (Moonee and Jancey did not actually sneak their way into the Magic Kingdom) Baker left the ending up to the interpretation of the audience. I, personally see the ending as Moonee’s imagination as right when Halley lost custody of her, Moonee’s entire world shattered, and her naive belief about the Magic Castle Inn was broken. So, as heartbreaking as it is, so she needed to find a new fairytale place to “escape to” as a way to cope with the situation she is in. 

Overall, The Florida Project showcases class division in a very unique, yet realistic way as there are many people just like Halley and Moonee who actually live in those Highway 192 motels. As people struggle to just have a place to sleep and make ends meet, tourists come to vacation less than a mile away from them, some of whom spend tens of thousands of dollars for the most luxurious, overpriced experience Disney can give. The Florida Project is a very eye-opening film that shows just how much of a problem class division is in this country.