John Sayles (twice nominated for Oscars in writing) wrote and directed Sunshine State and deserves accolades for the timeless subject matter: over development of land, demise of independent brick and mortars and with it the American dream, and the breakdown of the American family.
The script doctor in me knows that he threw in way too many plots to wring the most emotion, but still an admirable attempt. The sub-plots include:
1 a suicidal gambling husband and oblivious Chamber of Commerce wife
2 a woman sent away as a pregnant teen and her ascension to popular QVC ad person
3 a non-profit theater director and her redneck native Floridian husband
4 daughter of the above who is unlucky in love
5 a guilt ridden mother who takes in her wayward nephew
6 a native concerned with over development attempting to rally the townspeople
Of the six stories, the best acted were 3 Ralph Waite of The Waltons and Jane Alexander (4 time Oscar nominee)
and 6 Bill Cobbs.
Unfortunately, I felt the female characters were drawn into caricature and in Angela Basset’s case schizophrenic in her actions, she hates the man who unknowingly impregnated her, but then she’s walking on the beach semi-infatuated with him as he new dutiful husband looks on. And Edie Falco as a depressed divorcee who over drinks but never has a hangover and sleeps with guys in town only for a short time.
I also thought the story was told more than shown…many scenes with folks just talking about the old days.
I appreciated Sayles bookends of Alan King and his golfing buddies as a Greek chorus. And there were a few cinematography marvels; a sculpted mermaid on a vehicle going down the highway, and Edie Falco’s rebirth dive into water. I was also amazed that such cynicism was rearing its ugly head way back in 2002 before the ’08 real estate crash and even more negatively impactful, 2019’s Covid.
Sunshine State is worth a watch to show how little has changed.