Sunshine State
3 out of 5 stars
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take a vacation Over the years John Sayles has dissected community life in Texas (Lone Star), Alaska (Limbo) and urban Middle America (City of Hope), among others; now he turns his filmmaking skills to the Florida coast for an ensemble drama about this confusing jumble of subcultures. It's a tiny island community threatened on all sides by big-money developers. The Temple family have lived here for generations; daughter Marly (Falco) is just about keeping the family hotel running while Delia (Alexander) runs a community theatre and Furman (Waite) relaxes into his disabled retirement. Meanwhile down the beach, Desiree (Bassett) has finally returned home to introduce her new husband (McDaniel) to her mama (Alice) ... and to finally dust off the skeletons in the family closet.

There are several more story strands--and about 25 main characters--woven together into a fine tapestry of life in this corner of America, and Sayles adeptly captures the lazy flow of life in this kind of coastal community. Alas, this is the film's undoing, because it moves with so little energy or pace that it's hard to sustain interest over the course of nearly two and a half hours. Still, there are reasons to watch: Bassett and Steenburgen (as a community stalwart trying to build a sense of tradition) are particularly strong. There's a nicely tentative romance between Falco and Hutton (as a landscape developer). And every plot thread is full of meaning and insight. The issues the story touches on are powerful indeed, and they're handled with a wonderfully light touch that help draw us into each individual situation and see how they all delicately fit together. But as a film it's so lackluster that it feels like Sayles was directing in his sleep.

cert 15 themes, language 12.Jun.02

dir-scr John Sayles
with Edie Falco, Angela Bassett, Timothy Hutton, Mary Steenburgen, James McDaniel, Mary Alice, Jane Alexander, Ralph Waite, Alex Lewis, Michael Greyeyes, Tom Wright, Marc Blucas
release US 21.Jun.02; UK 26.Jul.02
02/US 2h21

Back home again. Desiree (Bassett) and her husband (McDaniel) face up to the past ... and the future

falco hutton steenburgen blucas
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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall