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"Sunshine State"

Directed by John Sayles.
Written by John Sayles.
Starring Angela Bassett and Edie Falco.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  7/1/02 


“What the hell is this?”  That’s probably what you are wondering unless you follow the news of the independent film circuit.  Well, writer/director/editor John Sayles (whose most famous work of the last ten years is “Lone Star”) did a little film that features a ridiculous number of minor, recognizable actors in a chatty story about the state of Florida called “Sunshine State.”

Angela Bassett and Edie Falco (“The Sopranos”) star in this drama about two women that separately navigate their mid-thirties while dealing with property closures, racial issues and family strife.  Bassett plays Desiree Perry, a Boston infomercial actress that comes home to Lincoln Beach, FL to see her mother (Mary Alice), whom she hasn’t seen in many years.  Mom is also harboring a troubled teen named Terrell (Alex Lewis) and Desiree tries to help reform the kid before he gets into more trouble with the law.  The parallel storyline in “Sunshine State” deals with a divorced “motelier” named Marly (Falco) that runs an old motel and restaurant in Deltona Beach.  Marly’s big problem is that her property is being hounded by contractors bent on turning her motel into a strip mall...which wouldn’t be so bad, if the motel’s owner—her old man (Ralph Waite)—wasn’t such a stubborn, racist bastard who wants to retain the property at all costs.

Much like “Lone Star”, “Sunshine State” mostly ambles along at an incredibly slow pace, but with so many characters, “Sunshine State” feels too long because it is an astonishing 127 minutes in duration.  Simply too long for a film that just follows characters around as they play out their lives, I found myself looking at the time periodically as I wondered when it would all be over.  The film has many minor laughs and with so many actors to keep up with—including bit parts with Timothy Hutton, Bill Cobbs, Mary Steenburgen and Miguel Ferrer—Sayles keeps things reasonably interesting just by going the Robert Altman/Woody Allen route of star saturation.  But, in scenes featuring Steenburgen and a suicidal businessman played by Gordon Clapp (from “NYPD Blue”), one wonders if Sayles even needed these scenes in the final cut of the film; all of these scenes are secondary and don’t deserve the attention of the audience concentrating on the work of the two lead actresses.

And, once again, Bassett really carries the ball well.  Her Desiree goes through so much drama in the course of “Sunshine State” and Bassett handles all of the work nicely, especially her work with an ex from high school named Flash (Tom Wright).  Falco is very good also, but her role is much more one-note than Bassett because Falco’s character is basically a comic foil for the activities taking place around her; as such, she has most of the movie’s funny lines and she delivers them in a Southern accent so thick you would think she’s really from the backwoods of central Florida.

But overall, this film just felt average.  Rent “Lone Star” for a more compelling work by one of Hollywood’s more respected directors.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09