There are times when words on paper take on a life of their own. If I'm doing my job, I'm conveying to you my feelings and experiences about an art form that I dearly love. While I may twist a phrase to try to make you smile or to drive a point home, this writing will most likely never be anything more than a handy way to communicate the ideas. In writing (for its own sake, and to be filmed) words can also become integral to the ideas themselves. In the hands of someone who loves language, word selection becomes part of the composition of the work. John Sayles' gorgeous Sunshine State carries every sign of this love of words for their own sake.Set in a once prosperous seaside neighborhood, the movie is a character study that seems to dwell on the idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The movie deals primarily with two families on either side of a racial division represented by Edie Falco and Angela Bassett, neither of whom we see enough of in movies for my money. Note to Hollywood--These two actresses are GOLD. Use them more.
Watching the large cast act and interact with the various interlinked plot lines, it begins to feel like you are watching something composed as music. There are themes and variations running throughout, and doubled again on either side of the race line. It's interesting that the one time the two sides have any sort of meaningful contact, it's a conversation between a mildly racist (if there is such a thing) blind man, and a troubled young black man. These two characters--that for one reason or another have been marginalized-- manage to find a few minutes of common ground.
For all of its racial undertones this isn't really about race, any more than it is about anything else. These two groups have been living together side by side for all of these years and have not really had much in the way of contact. Layered into this, however, is the message that nothing ever stays where it is, and if it does things grow stagnant and die. Every one of the characters in Sunshine State is going through something, be it loss, disillusionment, or a golf game. There will be contact in the future-- there will have to be for the place to continue and survive.
All of this transpires with the kind of easy-going pace that seems to be part and parcel of life in old southern Florida. There is a tremendous sense of place in the camera work, and with the emphasis that the script places on change, the landscape is the only thing that remains a comforting constant.It is certainly not a film to look toward for gut-clenching action, which is kind of odd, since it is very much a summer movie.