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Walking on Sunshine

2006-03-30 12:00

Unfolding during the week-long Buccaneer Days Festival, a new "tradition" created by the local Chamber of Commerce, Sunshine State is set in Plantation Island, Florida, a place where local real estate development is changing a modest beachside community into an upscale, manicured resort for winter-weary Northerners. The long-time locals, are divided on whether to cash in or stand their ground. The newcomers are eager to enjoy the good life or make a quick buck. Plantation Island, like its residents, is in transition.

Marly Temple (Edie Falco) is living her father's (Ralph Waite) dream of running a motel, only it has become her nightmare. Too sick to run the place himself anymore, her father is opinionated and ornery. Her mother (Jane Alexander) is immersed in the community theater group she runs like an impresario. Marly herself has given up her career as a "Weeki Wachee Mermaid" and her marriage to Steve (Richard Edson) is over. She begins a tentative romance with Jack Meadows (Timothy Hutton), a landscape architect recently arrived to transform a section of the island into a "natural" gated community. Now that her life consists of avoiding Steve, nursing hangovers and waking up with the wrong guy, Marly is tempted to accept a takeover bid for her motel from a strip mall developer..

In the next town over, Desiree Perry (Angela Bassett) has returned to visit and show off her new anesthesiologist husband, Reggie (James McDaniel). Sent away by her proud parents after she disgraced them by getting pregnant at 15, Desiree, like Marly, pursued a career in "show business." But instead of Broadway or movies, her appearances have been limited to industrials and infomercials. Still intimidated by her strong-willed mother Eunice (Mary Alice), Desiree returns to find that her little hometown of Lincoln Beach, an African-American enclave created during the era of segregation, is, like its neighboring P.I., being eyed by developers. Her mother has taken in a relative, Terrell (Bernard Alexander Lewis), a troubled adolescent boy, and Reggie finds himself reluctantly pushed into being a role model.

The emotional stakes are raised by the appearance of Flash Phillips (Tom Wright), the former football star who like Lincoln Beach, he too has fallen upon harder times. As both Marly and Desiree grapple with the sometimes-overwhelming weight of family history and family expectations, and wrestle with questions of love, duty and responsibility, Sunshine State offers an indelible portrait of two women, two families, and two communities standing on the brink of change.

What the critics are saying:

"...defies all that is commercial in order to tell its own story, resulting in a humane and moving film with real life values."
- Laura Bushell, BBCi

"...engrossingly true to life, driven as it is by remarkably three-dimensional personalities, metaphors for the decay of tradition and history, and a very human sense of humor."
- Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

"You can feel the heat that ignites this gripping tale, and the humor and humanity that root it in feeling."
- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Sunshine State is an engrossing exploration of a collision between two vastly different communities. This wonderfully acted ensemble piece is stitched together by John Sayles excellent direction.

Jean 2004/06/29 3:46 PM
funnier than you expect It's a really moving, really funny film with brilliant dialogue and likeable people. It reminds you that real but unusual people are sexier than manufactured bad actors. Interesting pace too. Quite gentle, without being boring. I couldn't bring myself ot pause this - out on video already. Almost Famous (if you liked that, you'll like Sunshine State)
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