Sunshine State

Director: John Sayles
Year: 2002
Country: USA
Running time: 141 mins
USA
Screenplay/Editor: John Sayles
Photography: Patrick Cady
Music: Mason Daring

With:
Edie Falco
Angela Bassett
Jane Alexander
Ralph Waite
James McDaniel
Tim Hutton
Mary Steenburgen
In writer-director John Sayles’ Sunshine State, an embattled stretch of Florida coastline becomes the stage on which the intertwining lives of its longtime inhabitants play out – and in keeping with Sayles’ faith in humanity’s sway, time and tide are nothing next to the push and pull of identities in flux. Developers are moving into Delrona Beach and its nearby all-black enclave, Lincoln Beach. High-priced condominiums have already swallowed up the local cemetery, and buyers have their sights on the family motel that stands on prime mini-mall property. The motel is run, reluctantly, by Marly (Edie Falco), a party girl facing middle age who distracts herself from her disappointments with tequila, a much younger golf pro and a barbed sense of humor. Over in Lincoln Beach, failed actress Desiree (Angela Bassett) has come home to see her mother after having left, in trouble, at 15. There are others, including a landscape architect (Timothy Hutton) uneasy with his role in the looming takeover, a prim PR woman (Mary Steenburgen) struggling to stage Delrona’s summer heritage holiday in the face of mounting apathy, and a Greek chorus of golfers headed up by a cigar-chomping Alan King. There’s nary an off note among this ensemble, and Bassett is especially hypnotic as she draws our gaze inward along with Desiree. The film, however, belongs to Falco, who fairly shimmers with the clear-eyed emotions of a woman who’s long outgrown her cutoffs and tank tops, dead-end affairs and dogged drudgery, and finds that salvation lies in merely admitting it. If Sayles had maneuvered these stories and performances into even a shade more sentimentality or gravitas, the weight would have collapsed them like a house of cards. As it is, they breathe easily, delicately into each other, coalescing into a picture of what is left and what is drawn out to sea when a wave breaks over the heads of a whole community. — Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, LA Weekly, 21/6/02