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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sayles produces another winner
John Sayles, who wrote, directed, and edited Sunshine State, is one of the finest directors working today. He is able to take seemingly unrelated stories and create a wonderful film. His work, including Limbo, Eight Men Out, Lone Star, and Matewan are all movies that make you think. I would have liked more extras on this DVD, but Sayles commentary is interesting and does...
Published on November 23, 2002 by Dale Rhines

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Land for Sayles
John Sayles returns to his Altmanesque "Lone Star" formula, with mixed results. Instead of a small town in Texas, a sleepy little resort community in Florida is put under the microscope. Once again, Sayles juggles about a half-dozen subplots that eventually tie together, although in a somewhat less compelling fashion than his Texas tale. The now-familiar Sayles themes of...
Published on September 10, 2003 by D. Hartley


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sayles produces another winner, November 23, 2002
By 
Dale Rhines (Alexandria, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sunshine State (DVD)
John Sayles, who wrote, directed, and edited Sunshine State, is one of the finest directors working today. He is able to take seemingly unrelated stories and create a wonderful film. His work, including Limbo, Eight Men Out, Lone Star, and Matewan are all movies that make you think. I would have liked more extras on this DVD, but Sayles commentary is interesting and does provide some insight into the movie making process. The movie, about developers moving into a little town in Florida and the effect on the town, looks at class and race differences and provides a different look at Florida, much like Limbo did for Alaska. The cast is really good, led by Edie Falco, who provides a Oscar worthy performance as a "motelier" who wants more out of life but doesn't seem to want it enough to leave, and by Angela Bassett, who did leave and maybe is wondering what she got of life by leaving. Bill Cobbs and TYimothy Hutton also provide solid performances in this movie. As I indictaed, the lack of extras is disappointing, but the movie itself is a gem. John Sayles, whose body of work stands with any director working today, has produced another film that will leave you thinking about it long after you view it.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than It Seems, January 28, 2003
This review is from: Sunshine State [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This is so much more than a movie about real-estate developers moving into a sleepy coastal community in Florida, despite how it appears at the beginning. It is about the lives and dreams of those who live there; about those who have left and returned; and those who have never left, but want to. It is about dreams: dreams of individuals and dreams held by parents for their children. "Sunshine State" has a unique perspective.
Sayles examines each of his characters with great affection, it seems. No one is all-good or all-bad.....there is a lot of "middle of the road" here, mostly decent people. He lovingly develops his characters slowly and thoughtfully, and never judges these folks, no matter what they decide to do or not do.
The slow, but never boring, pace of this movie allows the viewer to get involved in the lives of its characters, all of whom are played to perfection by fairly high-profile actors (Angela Bassett, Edir Falco, Timothy Hutton, Mary Steenburgen, and Alan King, among others). The narrative is told in ovelapping stories with an intersection of most of its characters as conflicts unfold in the community.
This movie left me with a lot to think about.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart and home, January 20, 2006
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This review is from: Sunshine State (DVD)
Sayles produces an ensemble film with lots of characters moving emotionally, and some staying in place. As with many of Sayles's films, it has a mixed-race cast, something I don't see in many films; he makes a point of discussing ethnicity and identity in many ways. The acting is good, based on Sayles's good script. There are a couple character types from classical theater, like the seer (the doctor), and the Greek chorus (the 4 golfers), that I really appreciated. With interludes of these larger-than-life characters, the movie is more than plot- or entertainment-driven. I also found a lot of suspense in the movie, with questions as simple as "Can we go in here?" or "I'm glad you're here, I've been wanting to talk with you" making me wonder where a scene would lead because the characters don't know where it will go.

There are 2 major plots surrounding 2 excellent actors, the beautiful and angry Angela Bassett and the pretty but sad Edie Falco. Desiree (Bassett) appears to be condemned by old friends and her own mom as a teenage runaway returning almost impossibly late to reconnect, when in fact her parents sent her away. Hers is a strong story of the possibility of recovering some good feelings about her childhood home now that she is in a loving marriage with a really mellow guy (James McDaniel - excellent in this film).

The seer talks about history and the vitality of Lincoln Beach (in the movie), a beachfront neighborhood based on and filmed in the real American Beach, which was a resort founded by a black-owned insurance company for its employees during segregation. Sayles's commentary on the DVD covers a lot of historical detail, but there's enough in the movie to be intriguing and provocative. In this context of aging home owners whose kids have moved elsewhere, we meet what you might call a "face man" for development in Lincoln Beach that is a foil of the development happening overtly in the historically white neighborhood next door, in Delrona Beach. Alex Lewis gives a nuanced performance; he is really good.

I found the movie to be visually interesting, for example with the Greek chorus of golfers. Their movements are mundane, yet at times like a dance around the gesturing perorations of Alan King. In his commentary, Sayles talks about how closely he story-boarded much of the film to make economical use of the actors' time; I wonder if this helps explain how carefully positioned the actors were relative to each other and how good the lighting was, throughout the film.

I thought Terrell, the young cousin who lives with Desiree's mom, was a key character in the film, as an ensemble film, very believable in his character, and a good actor. Given how closed off he was for most of the film, he did a really good job relaxing a little with Desiree's husband, and he's perfect when they part.

I think the film did a good job showing the complicated affection people feel about their childhood homes, their aging parents, and perhaps their duty to a place as well as to people. Well, there's always a lot to say about a Sayles film, but I won't drone on. I loved it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite possibly my new favorite movie, June 24, 2003
By 
amy (south florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sunshine State (DVD)
There are so many elements going on in this movie, it's hard to focus on which ones stand out the most.
First and foremost, as a Florida resident for 25 years, he nails the sleepy ocean-front atmosphere. The characters in relation to the land, their struggles with local government and big-time developers are utterly believable and accurately portrayed. The sense of community is delivered admirably with looks into the lives of a wide-range of citizens.
The characters are (for the most part) subtly woven together, no matter how disparate they initially appear. Marly, portrayed by Edie Falco, is my favorite. She's a not-quite-bitter-divorcee who has taken over the family's restaraunt/hotel business. A former Wikki Wachi (sp?) mermaid, this is *not* what she wants to do with her life. But because nothing better has come along, she stays and keeps her father happy.
Rather than one main plot, there are several sub-plots throughout the film. Desiree (Angela Bassett) reconciling herself with her mother and her past. Marly deciding what she wants and what she doesn't want. Exley (sp?) Plantation trying to buy out the town. Dr. Lloyd trying desperately to save the town. Mrs. Stokes wanting to save Terrell, or, at the least, redeem him. Jack just doing his job. Francine running the annual Buckaneer Day. Delia Temple making the best of her situation. Earl trying to kill himself. And the Florida Flash, whom no one really knows what it is he's doing back in town. All of this tied up neatly with four golfers, musing on the nature of the land.
It's a glorious movie. I've watched it four times already, and plan to watch it many more.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead on film for grown folks, December 2, 2002
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This review is from: Sunshine State [VHS] (VHS Tape)
If you know anything about the beach towns east of Jacksonville, Florida, this film will resonate to your toes. The place, the people, and the politics are captured with amazing insight. And besides all that, there is just plain good filmmaking, great writing, and great acting. This is the best movie I have seen in many a year!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low key with clever dialog in a modern witty story, March 2, 2003
This review is from: Sunshine State (DVD)
Set in Florida, this somewhat offbeat film was directed by John Sayles. At first it seems like another one of those "big business versus the little guy" films because the central theme is about a land developer wanting to buy the homes and businesses of the local population. Also, as one section of the beach is where aspiring black families built their homes years before, it seems like it might have a racial theme. But times have changed, and so have the movies. There's more to this story than age-old conflicts. There are the real issues about dreams of parents not necessarily being the dreams of the children.
For example, take Edie Falco, cast as the daughter of a motel owner. Her father is half blind and aging; her mother, Jane Alexander, is a flaky drama teacher who turns out to be quite an astute businesswoman. Edie has had a failed marriage, hates the motel and would like to sell out. She's tired of her life in which her most cherished success was working as a swimming mermaid in a tank in a restaurant. "The important thing was to keep a smile on your face, even while you're drowning," she says to Tim Hutton, an architect for the development, who dreams of creating beautiful landscapes.
Then there's Angela Basset and her husband James McDaniel. She's been away for 25 years because her mother, Eunice Stokes, sent her away when she was 15. This trip home opens old wounds, as the former football star who made her pregnant is now an unsuccessful car salesman who is exploiting his heritage to make buck. There's also a young troubled cousin who she tries to help.
In the meantime, the town is having a pageant and Mary Steenburger is in charge. And Alan King and a couple of cronies appear from time to time playing golf and making jokes. There's even a work gang of white rednecks who work side by side with a Seminole Indian who knows how to talk back to them. There's a lot going on in the film. Some of it quite subliminal.
The acting was uniformly good, but not outstanding. Mostly, because there were so many characters that no one particularly stood out. The writing was good enough to keep the plot moving and I wasn't confused about their complex relationships at any time. The best parts of the film though were the clever lines, which were constant and added a little "ting" to the story. The film was 141 minutes long, and even though I wasn't bored, I would have liked to push it along during the slow parts. And some of it was a little too low key for my taste because I tend to like more high drama and action.
Sunshine State is modern, witty and allegorical. I found it pleasant to watch I do recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another masterpiece from John Sayles, February 27, 2003
This review is from: Sunshine State (DVD)
John Sayles' crisp dialogue and interesting characters are so arresting in this movie that you find yourself smiling from ear to ear in awe. It's so flawlessly paced and brilliantly acted by all included, that you can't help but fall in love with the story. What might be mistaken for a dissertation on real estate development, this movie is so cleverly imbued with nuances and touches of genius that you simply won't want it to end. Maybe his best yet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Land for Sayles, September 10, 2003
By 
D. Hartley (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sunshine State (DVD)
John Sayles returns to his Altmanesque "Lone Star" formula, with mixed results. Instead of a small town in Texas, a sleepy little resort community in Florida is put under the microscope. Once again, Sayles juggles about a half-dozen subplots that eventually tie together, although in a somewhat less compelling fashion than his Texas tale. The now-familiar Sayles themes of family ties, bittersweet love stories, culture clash and community traditions are trotted out and examined. The film opens strong, with greedy land developers descending on quirky small-town landowners, initially leading the viewer to think they are headed for a picaresque Carl Hiaasen-flavored social satire. Instead, we are given a deliberately paced, almost Mike Leigh ("Secrets and Lies")-style glimpse into the lives of several families. The various little epiphanies that result are, at best, only a little interesting. Sayles is an actor's director, and while that usually guarantees good performances (which this film does have), it doesn't necessarily guarantee a riveting story. In fact, there are so many good actors in the huge cast (Edie Falco, Tim Hutton, Angela Bassett, Ralph Waite, Jane Alexander, Mary Steenburgen, etc.) that it's almost distracting, since no one stays on screen for very long at any given time. Worth a look, and more intelligent than 95% of the current Hollywood offal, but not quite gripping enough to compare to Sayles' best work.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meandering along a Florida Beach, November 21, 2002
By 
This review is from: Sunshine State (DVD)
John Sayles has a style of telling stories that takes a bit of patience on the part of the viewer. He seems to like 'free-association' thinking and unless you stay alert, some of his tales can slip right by. SUNSHINE STATE has so many little stories under the umbrella of a tale of redevelopment agencies vying for an old established island off the coast of Florida to turn into yet another dreary housing complex that even though Sayles keeps them all tied together in the end, the various life situations presented can wander out with the tide. There is the element of racism conquered (or is it?), a returning 'lost daughter' (Angela Bassett), a frustrated woman (Edie Falco, in a touching and very Southern role)left to run a motel and restaurant for her diabtetic father rather than follow her dreams, an orphan who witnessed his parents murder/suicide, a committed do-gooder (Mary Steenburgen) whose whole life seems tied up in a silly weekend Bucaneer Days celebration, and a misplaced Sarah Bernhardt (so good to see Jane Alexander back in the movies) trying to bring some semblance of culture to the resort folk, etc etc. What we are given is a slice of small town mentality fighting to stay afloat and Sayles elicits fine performances from a sterling cast. The ending (and beginning) are just edgy enough to qualify as an art house flick and the film just doesn't seem to know when enough is enough. But we are left with indelible portraits of some very interesing characters who challenge some home-grown prejudices and make us stop along this beautiful little beach and breathe in.......and just meander.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Sayles At His Best, February 9, 2004
This review is from: Sunshine State [VHS] (VHS Tape)
No film director has earned more the right to make a movie about not selling out than has John Sayles. Over the years he has consistently directed fine independent movies. I thus expected much from this movie and was not disappointed.
The out-of-state developers have descended on Delrona Beach and Lincon Beach, Florida. They want to bring progress in the form of "plantations," planned resorts, golf courses, etc. If you are interested in how timely this subject is, spend a day driving down A-1A in Florida. Then there's Disney World in the middle of the state. You'll be interested to see just who the bad guys are and what color some of them are.
The ensemble cast is outstanding, from Angela Bassett-- when she's on the screen, all eyes are on her-- to Edie Falco, Timothy Hutton, Mary Steenburgen--"it's so difficult to create a tradition"--to Jane Alexander and Gordon Clapp. There is a delicious scene where Alexander outsmarts a developer who is trying to rook her out of her property. She says something to the effect that she's good at finance since she has run a nonprofit theatre group for 25 years. A word about Falco: you totally forget that she is a big part of "The Sopranos." It's good to know that there is life for her outside that show. She's completely believable as the tired manager of her father's restaurant and motel. Finally, it's worth what you paid to rent or buy this video to hear the young woman sing "The Last Mile of the Way."
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Sunshine State
Sunshine State by John Sayles (DVD - 2002)
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