June 2002
Sunshine State

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Sunshine State

Distributor:Sony Pictures Classics
Director: John Sayles
Screenwriter: John Sayles
Producer: Maggie Renzi
Cast: Edie Falco, Angela Bassett, Jane Alexander, Ralph Waite, Mary Alice, Bill Cobbs, Timothy Hutton, James McDaniel, Mary Steenburgen, Alan King, Gordon Clapp

A few years ago, John Sayles’career hit a new high with “Lone Star”; a murder mystery set in the heartland of Texas. That film featured numerous amounts of acting parts and the story was well constructed. It illustrated how race is examined in Texas and how people get along to survive. His next few films were not on the same level as that film as “Men with Guns” was widely praised but overlooked by the public and “Limbo” wasn’t well received. In his latest film, “Sunshine State”, Sayles has returned to form as he takes his writing to Florida to tell the story of two families, black and white, and how the past is revisited to change the course of the future.

Set in the fictional town of Delrona Beach, Florida, and concentrating on the beach communities, the film examines race relations, the values of its real estate, and the effect it carries. Marly Temple (Falco) has lived her entire life in town. A divorcee with an ex-husband struggling to make end’s meat, Marly runs the motel business owned by her racist father Furman Temple (Waite). As he is going blind, he talks about the past quite often. Free-spirited and quite a drinker, Marly looks for attention in the eyes of a young golfer who could care less. As a real estate firm comes to town looking buy out all the land from the owners, Marly turns her sights towards the firm’s architect Jack Meadows (Hutton).

Meanwhile on the other side of town, Desiree Temple (Bassett) returns home after a 25 year absence. Seems she left town when she got pregnant by a football star at the age of 15. Coming home with a new husband (McDaniel), Desiree tries to rekindle her relationship with her mother Eunice Stokes, who sent her away and never forgave her letting down the family. As Eunice takes care of a Terrell, a 13-year old wayward boy, she mends toward a reconciliation. Because of a minor incident, Terrell is sentenced to community service at a theater group run by Delia Temple, Marly’s mother and Desiree’s former teacher.

Other characters mixed in this ensemble film are Dr.Lloyd (Cobbs), who leads a rally to demonstrate against the real estate firm and fight for their property. Flash Phillips is Desiree’s ex-flame who now works for the real estate firm. Francine Pinckneya (Steenburgen) looks for ways to get the community together for the annual Buccaneer Days Festival, while her husband (Gordon Clapp) foolishly tries to commit suicide on numerous attempts. Outside of the community is three wise men led by Alan King.

With as many talented actors that this films offers, the key and glue that holds the film together are Falco and Bassett. It’s their stories that offer the most meat of the film. Falco, totally different from the character she plays on the TV hit, The Sopranos, is amazing as the woman who wants nothing more than a good man and quick way out of town for a new life. Bassett brings with her the fire and emotion she always to her films. The most important aspect of the film is the writing. Sayles is able to capture the black-community point of view as to its roots in Florida. No family is ever perfect and having two families, black and white, go through their share of problems is enlightening. Waite, Alexander, Alice, and Cobbs are all good and excellent in the roles they play. King brings with him his comic sense of humor. Ultimately, this is one of the best ensemble films Sayles has directed. Not commercially driven, the characters themselves are enough to bring you to see this film. It’s worth it.


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