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Florida Project Movie Review: It Feels Like Life!

Florida Project

Starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince

Directed  by Sean Baker

Rating:*****(5 stars)

 Close to  Disneyland in Florida are subsidized residences  once meant to  serve as economical motels  for tourists , now  housing the impoverished  section of American society,the fringe people whom Trump would not like to be put on camera for us to see.

But Trump didn’t reckon he would have to  deal with a film like Florida Project . Directed  by Sean Baker,whose earlier credits include a film shot entirely on I Phone, Florida Project takes us closer to these unbroken  characters than we’ve been in any film in recent times. By  the end of the emotionally enrapturing  journey I felt I knew the film’s little heroine Moonee as though she was mynextdoor neighbour. And not just Moonee, played with exceptional empathy and zero precocity  by  7-year old Brooklyn Prince , but also her mother, her friends, and her friends’ mothers.

 Strangely there are hardly any fathers around. The demography  of destitution  in America is a saga of marital abandonment. Moonee’s mother is a single  woman, played by a non-professional actress Bria Vinaite ,  a sluttish but kindhearted  vagabond  who cares for her daughter in her own twisted  but heartwarming way.

The  mother-daughter scenes  in this  saga of  visceral  vignettes are so  alive and  relatable , I felt I was intruding  upon  some very private  moments  of shared wackiness between  a mother whose desperate situation in  life is  not lost on her little daughter.

But it’s Moonee’s adventures in the company  of her  two friends Scootey and Jancey(“What kind of  a name is Jancey?” is  Mooney’s introductory  line to her  friend) that enraptures  us  in the way the two kids  on  Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali did. As  the trio steals  its way into icrecreams and hearts the narrative opens its arms  to these fringe people, inviting them to have their say in  a film that celebrates their lives without romanticizing their  poverty.

 Let me  add that poverty in Florida Project is very different from what we know to be  poverty. The people  in Sean Baker’s astonishing  film get a decent roof over the heads and food on the table. And  the  vulnerable children running around  in the open are protected by  Bobby, the manager of the motel where the  film is situated. Bobby is played with wonderful wisdom  and empathy by  the seasoned Willem Dafoe . He is  a guy who has to often  do the dirty job. But he  never forgets  or forfeits his humanism.

 Neither does this film forget to look at its bankrupt characters with anything less than  unconditional respect and complete compassion. Never patronizing never cloying, never  over-sweet Florida Project is so heartbreaking because it doesn’t make poverty a topic of tearful drama. The tears that well up in our eyes for Moonee and her friends are not manipulated by the narrative.

Dammit, the director isn’t crying for these unvanquished  souls  . Then why are we?

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