Sunshine State

Sunshine State


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Is progress a good thing? Does nostalgia suffocate the new? Is the new worth a damn? Was the old better?

Writer/director/actor John Sayles is so multi-talented, you search for flaws. It's not easy. The worst you can say is that his early work (Return Of The Secaucus Seven, Matewan, Eight Men Out) packed a harder punch. But even that's dodgy. What about The Secret Of Roan Inish, for heaven's sake, and, more recently, Limbo?

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His latest is an ensemble piece, set in an undeveloped beach front community in Florida, where the old ways are beginning to atrophy, as property sharks circle. There is a mood of cynical inevitability. Tradition looks tawdry, love lies crippled, families squabble while marriages carry the stain of scandal. "The important thing is to keep that smile on your face, even when you're drowning," the retired black doctor (Bill Cobb) says.

Marly (Edie Falco) and Desiree's (Angela Bassett) stories cover the spectrum of events. Marly inherited a motel on rundown Delrona Beach from her father, but after the breakdown of her marriage and a failed relationship with a budding golf pro, her belief in fulfilment waned. Desiree returns to visit her mother (wonderful Mary Alice) at Lincoln Beach, where the coloured folk live, after 20 years away, with her new husband (James McDaniel), an anaesthetist, and slowly, as the movie progresses, her past catches up with her.

Sayles is making a statement about the inability of dreams and aspirations to carry forward into the next generation. Money corrupts and steals the future. White men colonised Florida and created golf courses and holiday resorts out of swamp land. "It's nature on a leash," one of the old-timers says.

The dialogue is sharp, but the mood sombre. Desiree hates to be reminded of the pregnancy that drove her away. Marly has a fling with a landscape architect (Timothy Hutton), who won't be staying long. The pattern of life changes, bulldozers at the ready. Delrona Beach is due a makeover. Will it bring happiness? Will it bring style? Will the black residents, protesting at Lincoln Beach, be heard?

Whatever else, Sayles doesn't lie.

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2002
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Ensemble drama about an undeveloped beach front community facing 'progress'.
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Director: John Sayles

Writer: John Sayles

Starring: Edie Falco, Angela Bassett, James McDaniel, Mary Alice, Jane Alexander, Ralph Waite, Bill Cobb, Timothy Hutton, Mary Steenburgen, Gordon Clapp, Tom Wright, Alex Lewis, Miguel Ferrer

Year: 2002

Runtime: 141 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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