Sunshine State


Sunshine State

Critics Consensus

Wonderfully acted, but the story and pacing can use a little work.



Total Count: 109


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,534
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Movie Info

Like Lone Star, Sunshine State is a John Sayles film in which a multitude of characters struggle with the past, both recent and ancient -- both family history and the traumatic past of the land itself. It's set on the fictional Plantation Island in Florida, the history of which is based upon Amelia Island, where the film was actually shot. Lincoln Beach, the once thriving black community on the island, is based on the region's American Beach. Sunshine State portrays a relentless onslaught of real estate developers in the area. Desiree Perry (Angela Bassett, who was also in Sayles' Passion Fish and City of Hope) has returned to Florida for the first time since being sent away as a pregnant teen. She nervously brings her husband, Reggie (James McDaniel of NYPD Blue), an anesthesiologist, to meet her estranged mother, Eunice (Mary Alice). Eunice has recently taken in a troubled teenaged relative, Terrell (newcomer Alexander Lewis). Eunice's friend, Dr. Lloyd (Bill Cobbs), is trying to rally the Lincoln Beach community to slow development. Marly Temple (Edie Falco of The Sopranos, here playing a Southerner) runs the motel owned by her ailing father (Ralph Waite of Waltons fame), but has little interest in the business, and the developers are pressuring her to get her father to sell. She's in the process of ending a relationship with the local golf pro (Marc Blucas from TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer), when a rather mercenary landscape architect, Jack Meadows (Timothy Hutton), catches her eye. Meanwhile, Francine Pickney (Mary Steenburgen) is so busy organizing the town's cheesy Buccaneer Days festival that she doesn't realize that her husband, Earl (Gordan Clapp, also of NYPD Blue and a Sayles regular) is suicidal. As usual, Sayles wrote, directed, and edited the film, with Maggie Renzi producing.


Edie Falco
as Marly Temple
Angela Bassett
as Desiree Perry
Timothy Hutton
as Jack Meadows
Jane Alexander
as Delia Temple
Mary Alice
as Eunice Stokes
James McDaniel
as Reggie Perry
Mary Steenburgen
as Francine Pinkney
Bill Cobbs
as Dr. Lloyd
Ralph Waite
as Furman Temple
Alex Lewis
as Terrell
Alan King
as Murray Silver
Tom Wright
as Flash Phillips
Cullen Douglas
as Jefferson Cash
Clifton James
as Buster Bidwell
Gordon Clapp
as Earl Pinkney
Richard Edson
as Steve Tregaskis
Sam McMurray
as Todd Northrup
Michael Greyeyes
as Billy Trucks
Marc Blucas
as Scotty Duval
Eliot Asinof
as Silent Sam
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News & Interviews for Sunshine State

Critic Reviews for Sunshine State

All Critics (109) | Top Critics (33) | Fresh (87) | Rotten (22)

  • Who wants to complain abut an American movie that has too much on its mind? ... Best of all is Falco, whose bruised, brusque, soulful Southern girl banishes all traces of Carmela Soprano.

    Mar 7, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • Sunshine State resembles Sayles' sketchbook more than his finished work, and we might hope that something more polished might spring from it.

    Aug 9, 2002 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Sunshine State is an efficient helping of Sayles, insightful even when it's not richly entertaining or imbued with apparent passion.

    Aug 9, 2002 | Rating: B-
  • Sunshine State has the structure, the theme, the style and, at 141 minutes, the length of a great John Sayles film. What it doesn't have, alas, is the merit.

    Aug 9, 2002 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • This is geographic history as personal history, a look at a vanishing world before the tide of progress immerses it. It's also superb independent filmmaking.

    Aug 2, 2002 | Rating: 4/5
  • Sunshine State lacks the brilliance of Sayles' most dynamic offerings, but, for those who don't mind an unhurried, deliberate narrative pace, this is a worthwhile offering.

    Jul 25, 2002 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Sunshine State

  • Oct 30, 2012
    John Sayles' component film is a disappointment only because we expect so much more from him. A good film on the pressures of community and the price that individuals are willing to pay to "sell out". Nonethless, we expect more.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 03, 2010
    The description was interesting but the actual movie was boring! After wanting to turn it off a couple times, I finally did
    Brody M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 19, 2008
    A long movie - about two families in a Florida neighbourhood. The story includes a little of everything - family, greed, bias, expectations, suicide, fidelity, unplanned pregnancy, etc. etc. I enjoyed it - almost have to watch it again to recall all the stories.
    Red L Super Reviewer
  • Jun 27, 2008
    Not the best John Sayles outing, but does have its moments.
    Anthony V Super Reviewer

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