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4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Sunshine State
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Natasha Theobald

"Like life, full of subtle wonders."
4 stars

I didn't think I could take another talky, multi-character drama. I have seen a lot of them recently, for some reason, and the very idea of them was starting to get on my nerves. If I had to hear one more actor launch into a long, boring monologue about something that happened when the character was a child, I thought I would scream. It was all starting to ring hollow and seem pointless and exasperating. But, I should have known that John Sayles could be trusted. This is another talky, multi-character drama. The difference is that the characters are interesting, with compelling, if minor, stories to tell.

Marly (Edie Falco) is still living in Delrona Beach, Florida, running the hotel and restaurant that her father (Ralph Waite) built. She tried to get away, once, playing a mermaid in an underwater tourist attraction, following in her actress mother's (Jane Alexander) footsteps. She is sleeping with a guy (Marc Blucas of "Buffy" renown) a few years her junior, but he's thinking about his career in golf. She has some interest in another guy (Timothy Hutton) who is in town to design landscaping for the developers who have descended on the formerly sleep area. She has an ex-husband looking for a loan to invest in building a waterslide. Marly has no clear idea of what happened to her life or how to regain control of it.

Desiree (Angela Bassett), on the other hand, did get out. Pregnant at fifteen, she was sent away by her parents and never looked back. She made a life for herself with a career as an actress in industrial films and infomercials. Her new husband (James McDaniel) is a doctor. Her new life is a happy one. The escape created a bitter divide with her mother (Mary Alice), though, which has grown deep and wide in the years since she left. She's not quite sure how to breach it, or if she wants to. Her mother also has been busy raising a boy (Alex Lewis) left by circumstance with the harsh reality of a less than idyllic childhood.

Francine Pinkney (Mary Steenburgen) is so busy planning Buccaneer days, doing the thankless job of commemorating the history of the town, that she hasn't really noticed the problems her husband (Gordon Clapp) has been facing alone. He is somewhat responsible for pushing through plans for new development of the beachfront area and is using his position of power for personal gain, to cover personal debt. He is conflicted about it but doesn't see past the problem to any plausible, alternative solution.

Dr. Elton Lloyd (Bill Cobbs) is leading the community opposition to the misappropriation of local lands. Flash Phillips (Tom Wright) is a former football hero whose life was determined by a career-ending injury. He makes appearances locally, where he is still remembered, and is on the development side of the real estate shenanigans.

All of the performances are good to amazing, but the standout for me was Edie Falco. You almost wouldn't know that you have seen her anywhere before. She so understands this character that there is no room in the portrayal for the actress or her more recognizable roles to seep through. Marly is an interesting woman with a lot of strength, but it's wavering. She is tired and numb, but she still has spirit and some spunk about her. I would have watched hours and hours of her character alone.

The movie rests lightly on the serious events in one community. You feel the sense of history in this place (even without the Buccaneer days) and among these people. They feel like family to each other; they feel like people you know. That is what makes it so easy to care about whatever story they launch into about days gone by or things to come. You actually want to hear it, want to hear more. These voices are so remarkable and sincere that hearing the stories they have to tell is a unique pleasure.

This is a talky, multi-character drama -- one of the most richly observant and quietly truth-bound that I have seen in some time. Spend an afternoon watching life in the sun.

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originally posted: 03/03/03 14:33:42
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User Comments

9/29/03 Goofy Maxwell Cross-cutting themes weave storylines 2gether, but interrupt flow as well. 4 stars
10/24/02 James Renwick Worth a Look 4 stars
10/09/02 Carl M. Zapffe The best movie I've seen this year. Another John Sayles masterpiece! 5 stars
7/27/02 ownerofdajoint saylescharactersaresoreal 4 stars
7/03/02 Heather Very limited plotwise, some good acting, a cautionary tale against throwaway US society 4 stars
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  21-Jun-2002 (PG-13)



Directed by
  John Sayles

Written by
  John Sayles

  Angela Bassett
  Edie Falco
  Miguel Ferrer
  Timothy Hutton
  Alan King
  Mary Steenburgen

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