The Florida Project Ending, Explained: What Happens to Moonee? (2024)

The Florida Project‘ is a 2017 drama film directed by Sean Baker about childhood told through a child’s worldview. Starring Brooklynn Prince as the central character alongside Bria Vinaite and Willem Dafoe, the film follows the story of six-year-old Moonee and her young mother Halley, who’s struggling with keeping her and her daughter out of poverty. Shadowed by the infamous Walt Disney World nearby, Moonee’s place of residence, The Magic Castle, a low-end Motel, witnThe Florida Projectesses endless mischief and hijinks from Moonee and her messy group of friends. As Moonee enjoys her summer, perfectly unaware of her economic struggles, Halley tries to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the firm but kind Motel manager, Bobby, finds himself inadvertently involved in the kid’s life.

The film expertly immerses its audience into Moonee’s experiences through slice-of-life vignettes within a grander overarching plot. Given the film’s open ending, viewers may have questions about the same. Therefore here is everything you need to know about it! SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Florida Project Plot Synopsis

Over the summer break, in Kissimmee, Florida, Moonee and her friend/neighbor Scooty spend their days running around town without adult supervision alongside Dicky, another kid from a neighboring motel, Futureland. When a new family moves into Futureland, the kids swarm to the place to play a competitive spitting game on the newcomer’s car. After the car owner Stacy, catches the kids, she makes them clean the car as punishment, during which they befriend her granddaughter, Jancey.

The Florida Project Ending, Explained: What Happens to Moonee? (1)

With a new addition to their group, Moonee and Scooty include Jancey in their daily antics and show her around the town. The pair teaches her how to score “free” ice cream by begging nearby adults for money and tells her about the people who live at Magic Castle. The kids routinely make trouble for the motel manager, Bobby, by trespassing into off-limits rooms and cutting off the establishment’s power, or bothering residents at the motel pool.

Even though the kids make Bobby’s job all the more difficult, Bobby is fond of them and tries to keep them out of harm’s way. Still, he makes Halley move out of the motel once every month to prevent her from establishing residency, something the management is firmly against. After losing her job as a stripper at the start of the summer, Halley finds it hard to keep the family afloat. However, she manages to make do with selling counterfeit perfumes at higher-end hotels. Likewise, she relies on her friend and Scooty’s mother, Ashley, a waitress at the diner, for meals, who slips them extra food.

Soon, Dicky moves away to New Orleans, leaving his friends behind. A few days later, Moonee and Scooty take Jancey to some abandoned condos a little ways off their motels. The kids draw up fantasies of living in the house while destroying various things around the wrecked place. After coming across a fireplace, Moonee devises a plan, stuffing it with pillows and setting it alight with a lighter Scooty found earlier. When the fire engulfs the entire building, the kids realize they are in big trouble and decide to keep the truth from the adults in their life.

Nevertheless, Ashley finds out about it and cuts ties with Halley, forbidding Scooty from hanging out with Moonee anymore. To make matters worse, Halley runs into trouble with the security at the higher-end hotel. The same effectively put an end to her source of income. As a last resort, Halley puts up adverts online as a sex worker and starts bringing customers to her room while Moonee is locked in the bathroom, blissfully unaware of the situation.

As a result, Halley starts paying her rent on time, which raises Bobby’s suspicions. Although Halley is able to pull her life together with a lot of cash coming in, things take a sharp turn in the wrong direction when the DCF, The Florida Department of Children and Families, shows up at Halley’s door.

The Florida Project Ending: Do The DCF Take Moonee Away?

Throughout the film, we see Halley genuinely love and care for Moonee regardless of her several poor life choices. Halley’s devil-may-care attitude rarely ever extends to her daughter, and even though her approach to parenting is questionable, it’s never uncaring or selfish. As such, even through their financial struggles, Halley wants Moonee to live a fun life and always has her back.

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Still, as the film progresses, it becomes glaringly obvious that Moonee’s current living situation isn’t what’s best for her. Although Halley’s love and affection brighten Moonee’s childhood in a way that she never even notices her poor living condition, it’s hardly enough to sustain her young developing years. Therefore, when it comes to Moonee’s upbringing, Halley’s fallback to sex work is the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

Shortly after Halley starts her prostitution business, Bobby learns about the same through CCTV footage of strange men entering and leaving Halley’s room. Consequently, Bobby puts down restrictions for Halley to have guests in her room and demands they submit identification at the front desk. The rule effectively puts Halley out of business since the people hiring her services want to maintain anonymity.

As a result, Halley is unable to make rent the following week. Bobby, compassionate as he is, seems to care about Halley and Moonee beyond their manager-customer relationship. Still, he has his own responsibilities, and Halley knows he won’t allow her to stay without pay. Due to the same, Halley tries to make up with Ashley and seeks financial aid from her. However, their interaction ends with Halley beating Ashley up in front of Scooty after Ashley brings up her sex work.

This instance, in particular, highlights how Halley’s situation gets the worst of her and could potentially endanger her and Moonee’s life. Even though Halley would likely never hurt her daughter on purpose, her life has come to a point where she can no longer healthily support her child. She can hardly legally feed Moonee, and her lifestyle is proving to be troublesome.

Although Halley tries to put up a good front for the DCF, the agents come to the conclusion that she isn’t a fit guardian for Moonee after discovering evidence of Halley’s prostitution business. They plan to launch an investigation on Halley, during which Moonee will stay in foster care. Although Halley is devastated by the news, she has to comply and pack Moonee’s bags. However, when Moonee realizes what is happening, she resists and runs away to Jancey’s house.

Is The Disney World Sequence Real?

At the film’s end, Moonee flees to Jancey’s home to tearfully say her final goodbye to her best friend. Overcome with emotion, Moonee is only able to squeak out a feeble “bye.” The sight sparks something in Jancey, who is usually never the instigator in the kids’ escapades. She takes Moonee’s hand, running off across the town to Disney World. The optimistic and joyful end creates a stark juxtaposition when paired with the heartbreaking gloom that comes before it.

The Florida Project Ending, Explained: What Happens to Moonee? (3)

Although the ending brings a compelling conclusion to Moonee’s story, it hardly seems realistic because it most likely isn’t. It would be quite a challenge for two young kids to run all the way from their motels to Disney World, which is a good few miles away. Likewise, they would never be allowed entry to the theme park without money or proper adult supervision. However, the scene isn’t meant to convey a realistic end. Instead, it is the fanciful fantasy of a six-year-old whose life is abruptly and rapidly slipping through her fingers.

Moonee spends the entire movie living next door to “the happiest place on Earth,” with no means to ever visit it. Nevertheless, she finds happiness within the mundane and lives her life as one adventure after the other. Through this, the film offers a pointed commentary on the socio-economic disparity between classes and how it affects children’s upbringing.

Since Moonee’s experience dominate the film’s narrative for the most part, we only ever get glimpses at the darker part of her childhood. Instead, we, alongside Moonee and her friend, are able to see the world through a lens of childhood fascination and innocence. Therefore, the ending represents Moonee escaping into a more idyllic future when the darkness of her life starts to catch up to her.

Where Moonee spends the entire film in a “Magic Castle,” surrounded by people who care for her but also glum living conditions, she finds herself in Florida’s real magical world in the end. Ultimately, the film intentionally leaves the ending to the audience’s interpretation. While the notion that Moonee and Jancey found unadulterated joy in the happiest place on Earth is compelling, it’s most likely that Moonee imagines the entire thing and goes away with the DCF.

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The Florida Project Ending, Explained: What Happens to Moonee? (2024)
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