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John Sayles is without a doubt one of the best writer/directors making films today and even though he doesn't get the backing and respect of Hollywood studio executives the actors in the business all know he's one of the best. Sayles doesn't give in to what the unsophisticated audiences of today expect. He keeps things honest and all of his work is based on personal choices. Like in most of his other films here we see multiple characters all surrounding one event. Here its the story of a resort town that is going to be taken over by a giant company and where most business's and residences will have to leave. One angle has Eunice Stokes (Mary Alice) living in a house that she has lived in for a number of years and she's proud because the house represents being elevated to middle class. Her daughter Desiree Perry (Angela Bassett) is an actress in the Boston area and she is coming to visit with her husband. While Desiree is there, she meets up with an old boyfriend Flash (Tom Wright) who had gotten her pregnant when she was 15. Another part of the film has Marly Temple (Edie Falco) who works with her father Furman (Ralph Waite) at the motel/restaurant that he owns. Marly meets Jack Meadows (Timothy Hutton) who is an architect and scouting the land. A romance blossoms between the two and its a clash of individual ideals. Marly hates working for her father and has become disillusioned and angry as life is passing her buy. Sayles complex script lets the viewer go from character to character and we become understanding of their complexities. The film shows how the characters who left the island went on to a better life and the ones who stayed have to deal with how life is changing all around them until it has finally found them. Its so refreshing to see Bassett in a good role. She's not cast as the girlfriend or some throw away supporting role, its a well written part that shows she is a terrific actress. Falco also shows that she can handle other characters and when "The Sopranos" is over she can step into any other role with ease. Well made and extremely well written, this is another interesting film to add onto Sayles growing resume of fine films.
John Sayles' films are always interesting. He provokes his audiences to think about what he shows on the screen. This is his latest attempt to draw our attention to the perils of overdevelopment in Florida by unscrupulous people who have nothing invested in the areas where they go to disrupt the lives of different communities, like the one presented in the film. Unfortunately, nothing changes for the better. In many cases it only brings unwanted growth, crime, tackiness in the name of progress. There are very old towns in the Sunshine State that are targeted to be sold by the locals in power as it's the case with the fictional Delrona Beach who, no doubt, are in cahoots with the developers. We can't help but wonder why would anyone in the right mind would go along with those who want to transform these laid back little towns on both Florida coasts and change them into the boring gated communities and condos that dot the landscape. The Greek Chorus led by Alan King and cronies are incredibly on target. They couldn't care less what was there before as long as they can golf every day in the immaculate courses created for their pleasure. Edie Falco is a revelation in this film. She's the one that goes in and out of the different groups with a sense of belonging to the town, obviously not making a very lucrative living out of a beach motel that has seen better days. Even though she has left the town for her own reasons she has come back to run the family business. Angela Bassett is the prodigal daughter who comes back to face her past and have a confrontation with her mother. Mary Alice plays her role of the mother with such dignity that we see right through this mother the hurt and disappointment her daughter has caused in her life. It's a joy to see both of these actresses play their parts in such a restrained manner. There are no hysterics between them, just the bitterness caused by events fate has dealt them. The rest of the cast is wonderful. Mary Steenburgen, Ralph Waite, Jane Alexander, Bill Cobbs are all perfectly cast for their roles. Again, Mr. Sayles has given us a slice of life, and in doing so, he has tackled the task with great panache.
One of those movies which goes nowhere with elegance. It touches on all
the basic concerns of humanity: love, race, age, parents, and real
estate. More than that, it handles all of them with honesty and
This movie should be watched late at night when the mind no longer knows where it wants to go. You can let it drift over you like a soft summer breeze. Hopefully in that state you will accept the fact that there is really no graceful resolutions or summations in life, just a review of how we dealt with all the little things which seemed so large at the time. The selection of actors for the movie also reflects the tone. Many very good artists who are drawn from television rather than the box office are able to use this vehicle to show us what they are really capable of.
This view of community and change in a small Florida beach community is another incisive look at American standards by a broadminded, experienced filmmaker. It's as solid an ensemble piece as one could want, with enough humor, insight and local color to be another enlightening look at American values by an expert chronicler of such things. The many reviewers who seem to find it tedious should probably re-analyze it as an allegory of the average American experience. Another exemplary work by John Sayles.
This could have been a great film. It could have been a great character
study. Instead it tries to handle too many characters and subplots and not
really delving into any one too deeply. In the end I really didn't care
about any of the characters because I didn't really know any of them that
The writing was good. It would have been better to write about just a few of the characters rather than to try and write about the entire population of Florida.
Production values were excellant.
Most of the actors were good.
Bottom line: Only go to see this movie if you don't have anything else planned.
I understand that people have different expectations of low-budget, arthouse movies. I also know that John Sayles has a sort of glow about him, that earthy, intellectual anti-hollywood vibe, a la Tim Robbins, the Coen brothers and Atom Egoyan, that makes him a darling with the critics from the get-go.
But this is not a good movie. I'm sorry, it just isn't.
It meanders. It has too many characters. Its tone is uneven, its point of view is muddled, the acting is all over the board, from naturalistic to over the top. It lingers for long moments with minor characters we don't care about and cuts away from tense scenes just when things are getting good.
It misses the mark.
The worst flaw in the movie is that the two closest things to a protagonist, Edie Falco's Marly and Angela Bassett's Desiree, are straight-jacketed in characters that have no drive. Marly is an apathetic drunk, steeped in her life's own inertia. Desiree is a woman trapped in her own repressed pain. When your two main characters' world-views can be summed up with the phrases "I don't care" and "I want to leave here," why should the audience give a rat's patootie?
I'll be plain: Sayles writes funny dialogue. He's very adept at crafting a scene. The problem is, these scenes don't go anywhere. There's no spine to the movie. No drive. The movie doesn't create rooting interest in any of the characters. In my opinion, he's also too preachy about big bad corporate America gobbling up the little guy.
If you want to see a quality "small" movie, see David Lynch's "Straight Story." Pass this one up.
Interesting, multi-faceted story of the lives of folks on Florida's Plantation Island. Many compelling characters populate this film: some sad, some funny, all very real. Great cast includes Edie Falco (The Sopranos), Angela Bassett, Timothy Hutton, James McDaniel, Alan King and Mary Steenburgen. Writer/director John Sayles seems (in my view) incapable of making a bad film. As with all filmmakers, some are better than others. This one falls somewhere in the middle. Sayles has made such excellent films in the past: Eight Men Out, Matewan, Lone Star, and Limbo (to name a few), that when he simply makes a good film it can somehow seem a bit disappointing. Certainly not for all tastes, Sunshine State impressed me, and I give it a 4 (out of 5).
this is the kind of film you hear critics saying what a wonderful effort from john sayles; a maverick fimmaker who constantly strives to make films away from mainstream hollywood and then like your humble narrator you get to see it during it's limited u.k. cinema release. you then hope you leave the flea pit afterwards saying 'brilliant', 'marvellous' and 'decidedly delightful' when you really think it's 'boring', 'overlong' and 'self indulgent'. that's not to say john sayles is a mediocre talent. 'lone star' and 'passion fish' are very good examples of his craft but i nearly fell asleep with me eyes open watching this load of cobblers and half the time i found meself struggling to keep up with anything the actors were saying. the story seemed feeble and uninvolving; something about property developers trying to muscle into a florida community with a medley group of characters meeting other characters who in turn all have their own agenda. how bland and unexciting!
***1/2 out of ****
"In the beginning.....there was nothing."
Small towns are often used as the backdrop for many films, but seldom is the concept often explored. "Sunshine State", like many other films that tackle the concept, offers a slice of life into the world of the people who inhabit a small town, which is, in this case, a beach front town in Northern Florida.
Plantation Island is a picturesque small town. It's residents include many people ranging from different races, including whites, blacks, and Native Americans. But it goes a little deeper. Some of the characters are native to the area, some are just visiting. Edie Falco plays a down-to-earth motel owner, Timothy Hutton plays a land developer, Angela Bassett plays a woman who has just returned to the island after having left when she was 15, and Bill Cobbs plays a retired doctor who doesn't like where the future of the town is going. Throw in a couple of philosophical golf players, and there you have the island of Plantation.
This film has Robert Altman stamped all over it. And that's basically what it is: a toned down mosaic of Floridians, that looks like it was done by Robert Altman himself. This is a very good movie, with deep characters and a story with multiple layers. But the story and scenery can't make up for the periodic lulls here and there. All in all, an above average film that is worth a look.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's way too many plots in this drama about a beach community
threatened by developers who want to buy up all the property to put in
luxury hotels and get the residents out as cheaply as possible. The
bulk of the plots surround motel owner Edie Falco who doesn't want to
sell out and the return of former resident Angela Bassett to visit her
mother (the delightful Mary Alice) after years of estrangement. Falco
befriends one of the developers who slowly begins to see things from
her perspective, while Bassett confronts her past after having left
because of a teenage pregnancy. Now the aging mother is taking care of
a distant teenaged relative who seems to have pyromaniac tendencies and
also confronts the former athlete who left her pregnant.
Smaller story lines show the weariness of seemingly cheerful community leader Mary Steenburgen who organizes a community fair (and whose husband seems to be embezzling money) and Falco's actress/teacher mother (Jane Alexander) who takes on the young black teen as part of his community service. Like many recent films that have a slice of life atmosphere, this is a movie about "moments", not plot, and is well acted, yet far too overlong.
Alan King plays a Greek chorus like commentator who makes wry statements while playing golf. His presence is filled with irony and intelligently written, but at times, he seems like he's a part of another film. As directed by John Sayles, the film has some strong points to make, but it is mixed in with a lot of gobbli-gook that seems trite and unnecessary to the film overall as a whole. When Bassett is on, the film shines (she is both breathtakingly beautiful and filled with inner-beauty), and stage veteran Mary Alice gives the indication that her character is not as fragile as she seems or as one-dimensionally nice. That "there's more to her than meets the eye" quality makes her quite unforgettable, much like Cicely Tyson's recent role of the aging lady in Broadway's "A Trip to Bountiful". I wanted to see more of Steenburgen and get some insight to her character, but with an all-star cast like this, somebody had to be tossed to the wayside. Ralph Waite ("The Waltons") has some nice moments as Alexander's husband and Falco's father, especially in an exchange with young Alex Lewis once he delivers the coffin he made for Alexander's play.
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