Sunshine State. 2002. USA. Directed by John Sayles. With Angela Bassett, Mary Alice, Edie Falco, James McDaniel, Bill Cobbs, Timothy Hutton, Jane Alexander. 35mm. 141 min.
When writing Sunshine State, an ensemble piece that grew to accommodate over 50 speaking parts, John Sayles only imagined Angela Bassett and Edie Falco as the central characters. In this droll, Altman-esque drama, Plantation Island, a formerly segregated Florida town, is targeted by developers who aggressively pursue its transformation into a sanitized leisure destination. As the daughters of parents with deep roots on the island’s two main beaches, Bassett and Falco play Desiree and Marly, respectively, women whose lives have been overwhelmingly shaped by their families’ expectations. While the resigned Marly begins to question whether she can stay anchored to running her parents’ motel, Desiree returns home years after having been sent away by her mother (Mary Alice) who, in a misguided attempt to preserve her upstanding reputation, neglected her teenage daughter’s need for support during a personal crisis. Initially, Desiree’s reconnections with people from her past are tinged with trepidation and guilt, but as she spends more time in her hometown, she exudes fortitude and grace, and is finally able to reconcile her history with who she has become.