Projections - Movie Reviews

Sunshine State

The piracy of Florida is leisurely played out in humanistic, earthly ways in maverick film-maker and writer John Sayles' Sunshine State.

Beach communities are his focus rather than the Alaska shoreline where his well acted, but dubious Limbo was set.  Instead of casting out into fishing, the introspective director looks more closely into land developing with much philosophizing and political talk.  He balances it all with a social consciousness reflected in the lives of conflicted Floridians.

Opening with a nighttime arson of a treasured pirate ship, Sunshine State quietly lures us into two families, one black and one white, from the once-segregated Plantation Island.  The sprawling tale from Sayles, who wrote the screenplay, burns for its main characters, Marly (Edie Falco) and Desiree (Angela Bassett), though not very dramatically, in a slice of Americana.

The ideas of small businesses pressured by conglomerates has impacted Sayles in a way that subtly satirizes the box-office motion picture machine.  And Falco's unambitious, but still energetic Marly has spunk as a divorcee who owns a hotel once owned by her retired, blind dad (Ralph Waite of "The Waltons").  Her mother (Jane Alexander), a drama teacher, also has an individualistic quality that isn't that appealing for their daughter who goes from a pro golfer wannabe (Marc Blucas) relationship to a landscape architect (Timothy Hutton).  The architect, in a way, is nomadic, on business from California, with his firm threatening to run her out of business with excavators digging up fertile land.

Bassett's photogenic Desiree returns to Lincoln Beach which is desired by developers and Sayles allows the perspective of blacks to resonate from a place which has been their mainstay.  She had left this enclave when she was 15 and now, a small-time actress, is back with her likable anesthesiologist husband Reggie (James McDaniel).  There are telling scenes with her mother, the gracefully expressive Mary Alice, as the guardian to a troubled teen (Alexander Lewis).

This lengthy opus with its minor interrelating elements synthesizes impressively from its intimate handsome lensing underscoring an uncertain political and racial climate.  A large ensemble populates this piece in amusing and sometimes touching ways.

A chamber of commerce drama queen (Mary Steenburgen) doesn't know exactly what her rock of a husband (Gordon Clapp) is feeling.  Their milieu, on the side of business expansion, is retorted with fire and dignity by a doctor (Bill Cobbs), the advocate for Lincoln Beach residents.  With shots of Marly underwater, once a mermaid now staying out of the water, and Desiree making up for lost time, Falco and Bassett convey much in a picture impassioned on a paradise lost.

Sunshine State

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