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 ...Written by
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Boy, did I hear some great things about this from film festivals and from critics I follow on social media. Trailer didn't blow me away but I knew there had to be something special about this film. I haven't seen Sean Baker's previous effort, Tangerine, so I didn't really have a barometer for what to expect. I can safely say the film works so well. It's incredibly well acted, and utilizes a charming and emotional script to convey an experience you won't soon forget.
The film follows a young girl named Moonee (played by a really good young Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) and her mom who live in an extended stay motel managed by Bobby (Willem Dafoe). Halley, Moone's mother, has trouble making ends meet and does whatever she can to raise her daughter but her brash personality and lifestyle makes life difficult during their stay at the motel. Bobby tries his best to watch over them but realizes how tough it is keeping them as guests.
Its hard to say much more without giving away key plot points. I have to say this film is a joyous good time. The kid performers are mostly yelling loudly and running around on adventures. you know, being typical hyper kids. Its done so well though. I think Baker may have legitimately had the child actors improvise their lines because everything felt extremely natural. Newcomer Bria Vinaite, wow. She is livewire. Love or hate her character, she is loudly unapologetic and rebellious and just wonderfully portrayed. Defoe is also typically great. Bobby is such an identifiable character.
Baker uses his lenses to study a part of under-represented America. We don't get a lot of films about struggling families who find it hard to get by, definitely not the typical "Hollywood" character story. The film is definitely going to hit a lot of viewers hard at the end. Its a rather beautiful ending that reflects the innocence of the mischievous but ultimately innocent children. This could really be an Oscar contender.
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