For SUNSHINE STATE, writer/director John Sayles (LONE STAR) has assembled a
large and talented cast, but, although the acting is good and the filming is
nice, the movie offers little that is memorable or compelling. Watching it is
rather like an overlong visit from a large group of your relatives. As your
relatives swap one mundane story after another, you begin to wonder if they are
ever going to depart. You love them so you don't want to ask them to leave, but
you hope that checking your watch frequently will give me them suitable hints.
So many stories, so much time.
The central theme of the plot concerns a group of developers who are buying up
Florida real estate. Having trouble simply saying no, the property owners, led
by Dr. Lloyd (Bill Cobbs), band together in protest movements to stop the greedy
carpetbaggers from stealing their land.
Most of the movie, however, is filled with little episodes like the ones
involving Marly Temple (Edie Falco, who plays Carmela Soprano on "The
Sopranos"), a motel manager whose nearly blind father owns the place. After
falling out of love with a wannabe PGA golfer, she hooks up with Jack Meadows
(Timothy Hutton). Jack, the story takes pains to explain, is one of the few
good developers. He doesn't cheat people out of their homes. He is just
involved in the designs of the new ones after the old ones have been
Using a both-sides-of the-track theme, Sayles cuts frequently from the white
section of town to the black. Desiree Perry (Angela Bassett), a successful
black woman who makes her living doing infomercials, has returned to see the
mother whom she abandoned many years ago. There is a small secret about why
Desiree left town when she was only 15, but you'll quickly guess it.
I couldn't recommend SUNSHINE STATE to anyone, save Sayles's fans, like me, who
wouldn't dream of missing any of his pictures. This one is the least of his
movies, but it does have a few choice lines. My favorite comes from Marly, who
remarks, "The important thing is to keep that smile on your face, even if you're
drowning." Although she is talking about her old job as an underwater mermaid,
the quote obviously has a much wider application.
SUNSHINE STATE runs way too long at 2:21. It is rated PG-13 for "brief strong
language, a sexual reference and thematic elements" and would be acceptable for
kids around 10 and up, although they will likely be bored.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes