The Florida Project: the B side of the American dream

Yesterday we saw Sean Baker’s The Florida Project and loved it. The truth is that everything this man does is wonderful. In fact, he has been acclaimed for films like Starlet (2012) and Tangerine (2015) – recorded by 3 iPhones -.

On this occasion, Baker has directed this moving story written by Chris Bergorch, in which Halley, a teenage mum, who is single, wild, disenchanted and problematic who lives with Moonee, her 6 year old daughter in a pink motel of very Wesandersonian aesthetics and located only a few metres from Disney World, and which is managed by Bobby – magnificently played by Willem Dafoe– a rough looking but compassionate man who becomes a kind of father for the two main characters. What is most intriguing about what happens in these 115 minutes, is that despite all the problems that befall them, little Moonee teaches us great life lessons, managing to be happy every day with the little things and her loved and inseparable companions.

As you will be able to see for yourselves when you see it, The Florida Project is an ironic portrayal of the B side of the American dream, in which many Americans live below the poverty line in road-side motels earning a living illegally while only a few metres away…in a fantasy world of fun, the vacational empire of the USA exists, reminding them of their misfortune.

Among the many anecdotes of this film, these are the ones that most drew my attention:

  • None of the actors in the film are professionals except Willem Dafoe! -.Valeria Cotto, best friend of the main child star, was discovered in a supermarket, and Bria Vinaite, who plays the role of Moonee’s mum, was discovered on Instagram. What’s most interesting is that this is the normal working method of director Sean Baker and screen writer Chris Bergogh:
“We asked the locals if they wanted to take part in the film and if not, we asked them to discuss their lives with us”?
  • The name of the film is a reference to one of the first names that were used in the development of Disney World. It was originally called The Florida Project although it was changed to Walt Disney World in 1971 for its inauguration due to the success of Disneyland in California when Walt Disney decided to erect a gigantic theme park in Florida.
  • The whole movie has been filmed in 35mm, except the final sequence.
  • Willem Dafoe invested a week of his time before production, living in the filming area immersed in the life of the characters and the nuances of the regional dialect.
  • Willem Dafoe has been nominated for an Oscar for Best actor following his performance in this film as well as a Golden Globe.

 

As I said at the beginning, the best thing about this film is that although it seems that there is no hope for the future and events get more and more complicated, it’s the kids, especially Moonee, who live in this time bomb from a different perspective, perceiving their own reality in which friendship and the desire to discover the world, are the highlights of the film and the essence of their happiness. It’s incredible how they live in two parallel realities where the adults are hopelessly freefalling but the children manage to withdraw from an environment full of poverty, malnutrition, drugs and prostitution, thanks to their innocence and to their ability to build a universe full of life and hope without any apparent drama.

There are beautiful scenes, sublime dialogues, images worthy of framing, heart-breaking moments and all in an intelligent and sensitive portrayal of these and so many other situations of inequality, which many families in Florida and other areas of America are unfortunately living in and that thanks to Baker we have gotten to know and been exposed to.

Enough said except that I strongly urge you to go and see it. It’s whole-hearted however you look at it.


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