I watched the film on a recent flight, and as a small scope $2M indie film, probably didn't miss much of the experience by watching it on such a small screen.
The story is of a young girl, Moonee, and mother, Halley, who live in a seedy motel near Orlando, occupied by live-in, low-income residents who have trouble paying the weekly rent. Halley, though outwardly fun-loving, is deeply full of anger, and is far too immature to be a responsible parent. We constantly see this effect on her daughter.
The hotel manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), has a good heart but has been run down by years of dealing with people who just can't seem to make good decisions no matter how obvious they are.
Through the film, we see Halley's life go from bad to worse, and Moonee is the unfortunate recipient of the consequences. Bobby attempts to do what he can to save her temporarily but knows far too well that he's just delaying the inevitable awful outcome.
The acting by the adult leads is solid, as there's so much for them to grab onto with these terribly flawed characters. It's easy to understand why Dafoe was attracted to such a low budget project.
The film does suffer at times from that low budget. And though the kids do a commendable job of acting, they're certainly outshone by their more seasoned adult counterparts.
That being said, The Florida Project is a wonderful, heartbreaking film. The script is well-crafted, efficiently establishing these troubled characters and allowing them space to interact with each other in highly dramatic fashion. By the end of the tale, it would be hard not to feel for these imaginary people, and to wonder how many real-life Americans are living the same troubled tale.
I highly recommend The Florida Project. In a time of far too many bombastic super-hero movies, this beautiful low-budget, character-driven film is a welcome change of pace.