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Written by Polly Barbour, Zyra Lee PadianganNarvaza

Most little girls long to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando and live in Cinderella's Magic Castle. Moonee is six years old and lives with her rebellious young mother Hailey in the Magic Castle Motel, a run-down place in Kissimmee, Florida, and she can see the real Magic Castle out of the window, along the horizon. Moonee spends most of her time with other residents of the motel, Dicky and Scooty, but Dicky is soon banned from playing after the kids are discovered spitting on the guests' cars in the parking lot. They are made to clean up the car and whilst they are doing so, meet its owner. Stacey and her grand-daughter live at the Futureland Motel next door to the Magic Castle. Jancey, her granddaughter, become fast friends.

Hailey makes money working as an exotic dancer, which means that she is eligible for temporary assistance from the government, but when she loses her job her benefits dry up as well. She tries to explain that she was fired because she wouldn't agree to have sex with the strip club's clients, but this is not seen as a circ*mstance beyond her control; her benefits are taken away. She tries to find work but there is nothing available, and unable to pay her rent, Hailey starts peddling perfumes in the parking lot of the motel, and babysits Scooty during the day in exchange for food. Scooty's mother Ashley works at the diner next door, and brings home food every day that she has stolen. Hailey is not a very good babysitter; she barely watches her own child, let alone someone else's. Because they are basically unsupervised all day, they get into worse mischief, which quickly crosses the line from mischief into trouble. They break into the motel's electrical room and cause a black out. They also burn down an abandoned condominium complex when they break in and try to find out if the fireplace still works. This is the final straw for Ashley; she cuts off all ties with Hailey and this means that their supply of food has also dried up.

Hailey turns to the internet to make money. She solicits sex work and when a client comes over to the motel she shuts Moonee in the bathroom and puts on loud rock music so that she cannot hear what is going on. Hailey takes Walt Disney World Resort passes from a client, and intends to sell them outside the resort, but he discovers her theft, and demands that she give them back. Bobby, the motel manager, comes to her aid and scares him away but he also tells Hailey that she cannot have guests in her room anymore.

Hailey is desperate. She apologizes to Ashley and asks if she can borrow some money, but Ashley mocks her and is scathing about her sex work. Hailey gets angry and beats up on Ashley in front of Scooty, which results in a visit from the Florida Department of Children and Families the following day. Hailey cleans up their motel room and gets rid of the drugs that she has there, but she still has a very bad attitude and is defensive and aggressive. After the visit she takes Moonee to a Disney resort to eat and they charge the meal to a guest's room without their knowledge. When they get back to the motel, DCF and the police are waiting for them; they want to take Moonee into foster care whilst they investigate her mother, but Moonee wants no part of this, and runs to the Futureland Motel to find Jancey. Jancey sees her friend's despondence and grabs her hand, pulling her along to the Magic Kingdom theme park entrance, where dreams are made.

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Study Guide for The Florida Project

The Florida Project study guide contains a biography of director Sean Baker, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

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Essays for The Florida Project

The Florida Project essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Florida Project, directed by Sean Baker.

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