BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Programmes: Newsnight: Review  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Monday, 29 July, 2002, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Sunshine State
Edie Falco in Sunshine State

Property sharks targeting a Florida beach town in John Sayles latest movie Sunshine State

Starring Edie Falco and Angela Bassett amongst an ensemble cast.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


MARK LAWSON:
Paul Morley, Sunshine State. John Sayles is desperate always not to sell out to Hollywood. Does he avoid it again here?

PAUL MORLEY:
Well, again, it's one of those films that you have that kind of dichotomy. On one hand, you are kind of slightly disappointed by it, because it's so anti-Hollywood and it's trying to be talky and about feelings and explore certain meaning, you really want to love it more.

And then you kind of go back and think, "Hang on, this is an opportunity to be anti-Hollywood, you really want this to be a great film." And in the end, it's a film that has gentle humour but when I come to think of what the humour is, I can't , so it just becomes a gentle film.

It's a lovely film, there are great performances in it, and the whole idea of the family and community being surrounded by water, mortality, things change and yet they don't change. Some of the images that are used are very lovely. But in the end, I just felt it was too long, it was going on far too long, and I just kind of lost interest in it.

MARK LAWSON:
I can think of some of the jokes. There's a boy for his punishment who has to build a coffin, there's all of that. There is the line about how to invent a tradition.

IAN RANKIN:
I found it hilarious.

PAUL MORLEY:
I wanted to quote some of that because I wanted to be positive and quote some of the gags, but when I was thinking of them just now, I was thinking, "Actually, that's not funny enough."

MARK LAWSON:
Well, you've decided it's not funny. Ian, it's an attempt to do something like Magnolia Short Cuts, which is the long slow multi-storey films, hard to bring off. Do you think it does it?

IAN RANKIN:
When I sat down, about halfway through the film, I suddenly realised that I thought the town was called Medias Res. It starts in Medias Res and ends in Medias Res. It doesn't seem to go anywhere, as ensemble films often do.

You feel slightly short-changed by the short cuts because you get one minute on screen of this character who's got a fascinating story they could tell if they were given the time and another minute of that character. If he'd cut the number of characters in half, he'd have got the same, the film would have been more powerful and better structured.

Having said that, it's a leisurely two-and-a-half hours but it's fun to watch. There are a lot of jokes. I think my favourite one was the ex-husband of Edie Falco, he's dressed as a Yankee soldier for a kind of heritage park, and he says, "You've got to stop living in the past," and walks away. It's absolutely hilarious.

PAUL MORLEY:
And I have to say, the great Alan King is in it, having a round of golf, telling gags, but it's not as great as you would want it to be, Alan King on a round of golf, telling gags.

MARK LAWSON:
Natasha Walter, he's trying to take on an interesting bit of racial history which is that the community is based on something called American Beach which was set up for the black community in the 1930s.

NATASHA WALTER:
Yeah, but he never really focuses down on that, does he? He has people explaining it and then he has other people explaining another view that they have of the history of the area, but he never really brings those views into the kind of confrontation that you want.

He never really gets the plot going there. He obviously isn't interested in plot, what he's interested in is character, but I think the problem is that too many of the scenes where the characters should be developing, they are really just staying the same.

We keep going back to characters and they keep explaining their lives to different characters, but nothing really moves on in the film itself. Everything important happened in the past.

PAUL MORLEY:
I think with John Sayles writing, directing and editing it as well, I think he's playing God a lot and he's controlling everything┐

MARK LAWSON:
I was going to ask about that credit which is unusual. I think Spielberg has taken it, David Lean, I think Kubrick. It's people who think of themselves as auteurs. Does he deserve that kind of status?

PAUL MORLEY:
He's setting up the world and is trying to control it. It's almost like an Alice Sebold version of heaven in a way because you don't really get much sense of an outside kind of world. You almost feel that this will just carry on forever, it will pass through, everything will just pass through.

IAN RANKIN:
There were some very good performances in it. It was great to see Edie Falco come out from under The Sopranos and actually turn in a terrific performance.

PAUL MORLEY:
And Timothy Hutton out-Tom Hanked Tom Hanks.

MARK LAWSON:
I really liked Limbo and some of the earlier stuff but there is a problem, isn't there, that Sayles' whole sales pitch is, "I am doing something that nobody else can do." And in fact, throughout this film, you're thinking of Short Cuts, you're thinking of Magnolia and people have done this before.

NATASHA WALTER:
And Altman would do this much better. I mean, at the beginning, it felt very Altmanesque when he was sort of going bom, bom, bom from one character to the next and you were sitting there thinking, "So how are these characters going to relate to each other and how are they going to come together? How are they going to move forward?"

But then, because they didn't move forward and because they never really related to each other, a lot of them just stayed in their own little worlds, dissociated from each other, he never got that Altman sense of movement.

PAUL MORLEY:
And a lot of the times when he paid off and you saw how the characters were in fact related or knew each other, it was not necessarily a great moment of revelation.

IAN RANKIN:
Bizarrely it's been compared to Carl Hiasson which I think is extraordinary. I think only that it's set in Florida, it's only the setting, nothing else.

MARK LAWSON:
I think that's probably lazy journalism. One of the things Sayles does, again we can't give it away, but this is the second film in which he has stopped rather than ended his films. It's a bit suspicious, that I think. I mean, endings are quite an important thing in literature and he somehow makes it a moral point not to have them.

IAN RANKIN:
And again I come back to the point about the ensemble is that some characters you want to come back to and see is the guy going to end up committing suicide, this totally unsuccessful suicidal man. And he's just lost in the middle of the plot, he just goes.

The kid with the coffin, what's going to happen to him? Because it's an ensemble, you lose that, you lose that structure that you need to tell a story.

PAUL MORLEY:
And they lose it as well as if they know they're going nowhere. Both the suicide guy and the kid, they look like they're going nowhere.

IAN RANKIN:
And as soon as the coffin's built, you think, "OK, let's use it."

PAUL MORLEY:
There's a gag there and it never got used.

MARK LAWSON:
We're going to leave it there.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Panel
Links to more Review stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Review stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes