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Sunshine State

September 9, 2010

Sunshine State (2002)
Director: John Sayles
Actors: Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, Bill Cobbs

Synopsis: The lives of a group of Floridians comes into sharp focus, when their small coastal town becomes a target for major land developers.

Reviews: Despite occasionally lapsing into didacticism and overt use of metaphors, Sunshine State is a profoundly graceful and eloquent film – detailing the assorted mini-dramas of a group of Floridians whose community is at threat from eager property developers. Even in the rare moments where Sayles’ characters ventriloquise the narrative subtext (namely in segments featuring Mary Steenburgen and Ralph Bellamy), there is a semblance of logic, because it betrays less an inclination to preach subtext and ram home thematic meat, than acting as a simple by-product of a film whose very diegesis concerns politics and polemics, and possesses characters who necessarily represent various agendas and statuses within the community. Sayles proves particularly adept at merging the personal with the political, revealing moments of vital character backstory as naturally and spontaneously as would emerge in real life. Sayles’ ultimate achievement though is in saying something inherently complex about this community and its place within American social history, but with an impeccably light touch. Among assorted themes explored, there is the legacy of the Civil Rights movement, the inexorable clash between capital and environmental causes, musings on the increasing sanitisation and gentrification of civic landscapes, and a wry satire on Floridian geo-history itself – and how that uniqueness is in danger of becoming lost to social apathy and glib consumerism. (June 2008)

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