Starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince
Directed by Sean Baker
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?