Sunshine State

Sunshine State
Film review by: Witney Seibold



            With his new drama, “
Sunshine State,” prolific writer/director John Sayles (“Lone Star,” “Men With Guns”) pays most direct homage to his ensemble realism predecessors Mike Leigh and Robert Altman. While not quite as whole or stellar as some of Leigh’s or Altman’s films, “Sunshine State” is still a wonderful effort, and a considerable step forward for an experienced and talented director.

            The film takes place, yes, in
Florida, on the small island of Plantation, on the event of the town’s annual festival. Each member of the community is struggling in some way. Desiree (Angela Bassett) is coming home for the first time since she was 15 with her new fiancée. Furman (Ralph Waite) is bemoaning the loss of his sight. His daughter, Marly (Edie Falco), is fending off intrusive developers, but finds herself attracted to one of them (Timothy Hutton). Francine (Mary Steenburgen) has the thankless job of being the person who cares enough to organize the festival. Dr. Lloyd (Bill Cobbs) is organizing an angry protest to save the small town from the developers. Each story is connected, but they advance independently, each character slowly coming upon new realizations as the festival draws to a close.

            Sayles does a terrific job of giving us these real and sympathetic characters. It is a small town full of real people all struggling with their pasts, and coming to terms with an uncertain future. Each actor is able to completely embody their characters, rather than just playing them. Edie Falco gives one of the best performances I have seen this year. She presents Marly as frank, wounded, sarcastic, and hiding sadness. Instead of trite melodramatic life-changing events, we get subtle everyday struggles.

            It does get a little preoccupied with its sub-plot of encroaching developers, and a few characters are not developed as much as I would have liked (we’re never sure why one wants to commit suicide), but I can still recommend the film. While I was not a fan of Sayles’ acclaimed Lone Star, I feel he as made something extraordinary with
Sunshine State. Well-made ensemble realism is all too rare.

Published in: on April 22, 2009 at 10:45 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Nice review. My take:

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