Sunshine State (film)

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Sunshine State
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Sayles
Screenplay byJohn Sayles
Produced byMaggie Renzi
StarringJane Alexander
Angela Bassett
Bill Cobbs
Edie Falco
Timothy Hutton
Alan King
Mary Steenburgen
CinematographyPatrick Cady
Edited byJohn Sayles
Music byMason Daring
Anarchist's Convention Films
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release dates
Running time
141 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.4 million[1]

Sunshine State is a 2002 American drama film written and directed by John Sayles. The picture stars an ensemble cast that features Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, Jane Alexander, Alan King, Timothy Hutton, Mary Steenburgen, Bill Cobbs, and others. It was filmed on Amelia Island, Florida, which includes settings in historic Fernandina Beach. For her performance in the film, Falco received the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Set in a small town in northern Florida, the main two intertwining stories focus on two women at crucial points in their lives, and also comments on such issues as race relations and commercial property development.


As the primarily white town of Delrona Beach, Florida, is preparing for its annual festival, one of the parade floats is set afire. A young black boy named Terrell is found guilty of the deed, and he is sentenced to community service with a local community theater. An orphan, Terrell is in the care of an elderly relative, Eunice Stokes, who lives in the neighboring, primarily black community of Lincoln Beach.

Eunice is being visited by her actress daughter, Desiree, a former beauty queen who left town while she was still in high school. At the time, she caused a scandal because she was pregnant by her boyfriend and her parents sent her to live with an aunt in Georgia until the baby came. She has returned to make amends to her mother and also to introduce her new husband, Reggie. While in town, she becomes reacquainted with her old high-school paramour, Flash, who was a star football player and is now a promoter for a property development scheme.

Back in Delrona Beach, Marly Temple runs a motel and cafe owned by her elderly father and drama-instructor mother. Marly feels shackled by the arrangement and is tempted to sell the hotel to developers, but she assumes her father will never agree. Marly wanted to be a marine biologist and was once an underwater performer, but when her twin older brothers died in an accident, she reluctantly became her father's heir. Marly must also deal with her former husband, Steve, a slacker who is always looking to make some quick money. Marly additionally has a boyfriend, Scotty, who is struggling to become a golf pro and travel the tour circuit. Marly then becomes romantically involved with Jack, a landscape architect affiliated with the property developers.

Offering commentary on the story are a group of golfers, who act as an updated iteration of the Greek chorus.



John Sayles wrote the script for the film with Edie Falco and Angela Bassett in mind, the latter whom he had previously worked with on City of Hope and Passion Fish.[2]

Sunshine State was filmed on Florida's Amelia Island, which is located 30 or so miles north of Jacksonville.[3]


On review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, Sunshine State has an approval rating of 80% based on 110 reviews. The website's critics consensus reads, "Wonderfully acted, but the story and pacing can use a little work."[4]

In a positive review, Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote the film "may be the most far-reaching civics lesson ever crammed into a 2-hour-21-minute film. But more important, it creates a cinematic mosaic of American lives unprecedented in its range, balance, subtlety and even-handedness."[5] He added, "In telling overlapping stories, it is Mr. Sayles's first film to convey the sweep of a top-drawer Robert Altman movie."[5]

In a review that awarded 3 1/2 stars out of 4, Roger Ebert wrote, "Because we are so familiar with the conventional approach to a story like this, it takes time to catch on that Sayles is not repeating the old progressive line about the little guy against big capital. He has made a more observant, elegiac, sad movie, about how the dreams of the parents are not the dreams of the children."[6]

Of Falco, David Ansen of Newsweek wrote her "bruised, brusque, soulful Southern girl banishes all traces of Carmela Soprano."[7]




  1. ^ "Sunshine State". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  2. ^ "Just a Storyteller". Gadfly Online. June 17, 2002. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  3. ^ "Sunshine State : Production Notes". Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  4. ^ "Sunshine State". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 8, 2023.
  5. ^ a b Holden, Stephen (June 21, 2002). "FILM REVIEW; Within a Florida Civics Lesson, Rich Stories". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 12, 2002). "Sunshine State". Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  7. ^ Ansen, David (June 23, 2002). "Movies: Fresh Squeezed". Newsweek. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  8. ^ "Awards for 2002 - LAFCA". Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  9. ^ "2002 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  10. ^ "Black Reel Awards - Past Winners - 2003". Black Reel Awards. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  11. ^ "2002 FFCC Award Winners". Florida Film Critics. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  12. ^ "Denzel Washington sweeps Image Awards". March 9, 2003. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  13. ^ "2003 7th Annual SATELLITE™ Awards". International Press Academy. Archived from the original on February 18, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2022.

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