Divorced Marly (Edie Falco) runs her fatherís motel & restaurant in Delrona Beach, Florida, a quiet seaside community that has been discovered by developers, who are swooping and selling the residents ideas of wealth. With the developers comes landscape architect, Jack Meadows (Timothy Hutton) whose quiet charm appeals to Marly. Meanwhile Desiree (Angela Bassett) is back in town with her brand new husband, after many years absence; she was 15 when she left, and pregnant. The father, once a hot shot football star, Flash Phillips (Tom Wright) now sells cars Ė and real estate for the developers. But Desiree is more concerned with reconciling with her mother, Eunice (Mary Alice), while local activist Francine (Mary Steenburgen) busies herself with civic duties, inventing tradition for the place.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Iím a fan of John Sayles, so itís with some regret that I find myself disappointed with Sunshine State, even more so now that Iím writing about it. The assembled talents and the cinematic prowess of Sayles keeps the film more or less engaging while itís playing, but the holes start to open up on reflection. Sayles has always told a story full of tangible characters; here the characters are diffused by their sheer number (more than mentioned in the synopsis), and the story is not so much a story as a flat plan, onto which the characters are placed, like a giant board game. Sayles slices through a variety of lives and relationships as if to put us firmly in the place through its people, and the dramatic construct of real estate development as a trigger for character journeys is never satisfactorily Ö er Ö. developed. There are glimpses of what potential greed may do to peopleís choices, and there is a theatrical device like a Greek chorus with a handful of golfers offering skewed commentary on local development peppered through the film. In all, it is an interesting character postcard from Florida, beautifully presented and sincerely made, but ultimately not so appealing that I wish I were there.
Review by Louise Keller:
You know that feeling when you go on holidays and spend a little time in a place? You get to know the locals and you get to understand the rhythms and the pace of every day living. After spending nearly two and a half hours watching Sunshine State, I got the feeling that this was a place that I had come to know a little, and the characters were people that I had met and briefly observed. There is no time to judge them, but thereís time to look and listen and get a clear picture of who they are and what their life is like. And when the end credits roll, even though nothing much may have happened, I felt as though I had connected in some way with life in this place. Unhurried and closely observed, Sunshine State is a leisurely observation of life in Florida. John Sayles takes a look at how life has changed in Florida by honing in on individual stories. Itís a small close-knit environment that is warm and comfortable, yet stifling at the same time. We see how progress impacts and watch as the past and the future sit side by side. A strong ensemble cast introduces us to the characters: Marly (Edie Falco, terrific) hates running her fatherís motel; her mother Delia (Jane Alexander) escapes by throwing herself into her theatre classes; Desiree (Angela Bassett, striking) needs to come to terms with the circumstances that made her leave 25 years ago. All the performances are strong and I especially enjoyed those by Edie Falco and Mary Steenburgen. The camera concentrates on the characters: itís the response that we are interested in. Sunshine State lacks the kind of dynamic that films like Limbo offers, and in some ways is a rather indulgent piece. But it is the work of a skilled filmmaker, and if a slow-paced trip to Florida is in order, there are interesting characters to meet.
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SUNSHINE STATE (PG)
CAST: Edie Falco, Jane Alexander, Ralph Waite, Angela Bassett, James McDaniel, Mary Alice, Bill Cobbs, Gordon Clapp, Mary Steenburgen, Timothy Hutton, Tom Wright
PRODUCER: Maggie Renzi
DIRECTOR: John Sayles
SCRIPT: John Sayles
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Patrick Cady
EDITOR: John Sayles
MUSIC: Mason Daring
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Ricker
RUNNING TIME: 141 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: louise
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: October 10, 2002; Melbourne: October 17, 2002; other states to follow
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: May 28, 2003
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