Even the “news” comes from a television station and a newspaper reserved for the villages. A front page article could be about a resident’s new red sports car. “I don’t see any slums. I don’t see death or destruction,” said one resident with relief. Like a perpetual luxury cruise ship or an all-inclusive residential resort, The Villages has everything the community could want or need at its doorstep. Indeed, everything is designed to prevent them from wanting or needing to leave. “Everything here is so positive that I’m at a loss for words,” one resident says happily. Like the lotus eaters who forget everything but the pleasures of the present moment described in Tennyson’s poem, it is “a land in which it always seemed afternoon.” Everything is designed so that residents are not worried. Even a prepaid funeral sales pitch glosses over the odious part – death – to focus on the relief of having to worry about rising costs.
One of the film’s most intriguing revelations comes from the son of the founder of the community. Like Disneyland’s iconic Main Street, The Villages look was specially created to inspire a heartwarming sense of nostalgia, created for aging baby boomers to represent an idealized past. He was so idealized that the first visitors insisted on knowing “the story”. They didn’t want to tell the real story of how the idea of villages came to be. They wanted a fictitious story, some kind of bedtime story. And so, the buildings in the city center have mythical and completely imaginary patterns. We see a close-up of an artistic faux crack in the faux adobe facade of a storefront.
There are a dozen different films you could make about villages. The recent feature films “Poms” and “Just Getting Started” used a setting like this for dramas starring aging Oscar winners, and the horror film “Vivarium” has a young couple in an all-housing estate. also idyllic. I would love to see a documentary that focuses on the staff who keep everything so perfect and transparent. Or one based on the New York Times articles referring to Villages as a “nation-state” and analyzing the shift from overwhelming local support for Donald Trump’s 2016 candidacy to Biden in 2020. Or a look at the kind of self-selection that characterizes people who want to live in a place like this, who all seem white, and if freedom from everyday worries makes life happier. This film, however, produced in partnership with the New York Times and produced by Darren Aronofsky, and writer / director (and Florida native) Lance Oppenheim’s debut feature documentary, focuses more on a few of the individuals than on the larger story.