Sunshine State

Ramshackle, leisurely and crammed with fine actors given free rein to do what they do best, this portrait of a divided Florida community recalls writer-director John Sayles' earlier LONE STAR (1996) and, to a lesser degree, LIMBO (1999). Island communities Delrona Beach and Lincoln Beach lie side by side but worlds apart. Delrona Beach is an anonymous tourist...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Ramshackle, leisurely and crammed with fine actors given free rein to do what they do best, this portrait of a divided Florida community recalls writer-director John Sayles' earlier LONE STAR (1996) and, to a lesser degree, LIMBO (1999). Island communities Delrona Beach and Lincoln Beach lie side by side but worlds apart. Delrona Beach is an anonymous tourist town, while Lincoln Beach, a dwindling African-American enclave, is a holdover from the pre-civil rights era when the black community's best and brightest flocked there to escape Southern racism. Both strips of sand are coveted by developers for whom green is only relevant color, and who are ready to do whatever it takes (bribes, trickery, pitting neighbor against neighbor) to get property owners to sell, so they can build pricey vacation condos, golf courses and hotels. Caught in this larger conflict is a cross-section of ordinary Floridians entangled in their own problems. Marly Temple (Edie Falco) runs the Delrona Beach hotel and restaurant to which her father dedicated his life, and loathes every minute of it. She'd like to be back in Weeki Wachee, doing water ballet in a mermaid costume. She'd like her pathetic ex-husband (Richard Edson) to leave and her much younger boyfriend (Marc Blucas) to stay. Marly's nearly blind father, Furman (Ralph Waite), is retired and hating it, while her mother (Jane Alexander) has channeled a lifetime of thwarted ambition into running a local theater company. While drowning her sorrows in tequila shots, Marly meets landscaper Jack Meadows (Timothy Hutton), who briefly holds out hope for a better future. Meanwhile, in Lincoln Beach, small-time actress Desiree Perry (Angela Bassett) is making her first visit in years to see her perpetually disapproving mother, Eunice (Mary Alice). Desiree, who left town in disgrace as an unmarried, pregnant teenager, is accompanied by her new husband, successful anesthesiologist Reggie (James McDaniel), but the minute she returns to her mother's house, old feelings of inadequacy rush back in. Adding to the tension is Terrell (Bernard Alexander Lewis), the deeply troubled adolescent Eunice has taken in. Meanwhile, perpetual cheerleader Francine Pinkney (Mary Steenburgen) is busy coordinating the chamber of commerce's tacky Buccaneer Days festival, while her miserable husband (Gordon Clapp), who's already failed at everything else, repeatedly botches his own suicide. Like LONE STAR, this group portrait mourns a rapidly vanishing American landscape while acknowledging that the past, free of corporate homogeneity though it may have been, is never the unspoiled paradise it appears in retrospect.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Ramshackle, leisurely and crammed with fine actors given free rein to do what they do best, this portrait of a divided Florida community recalls writer-director John Sayles' earlier LONE STAR (1996) and, to a lesser degree, LIMBO (1999). Island communities… (more)

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