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Movie Review: Sunshine State

Story: I am a BIG John Sayles fan. I rarely miss a film of his. He requires that his audience think a little - and I like that. He is big on history - both personal and collective. He has a consistent social conscience and he does not believe that films need to end happily (he is a realist - so am I).

As writer, editor and director, on this outing, Sayles journeys to coastal Florida. With some 12 different main characters he explores greed, social Darwinism, the haunting past and the institutionalized racism of the new South. Like the South, this is a slow paced film. Other than a little arson, there is not much going on except interesting dialogue and lots of life. So, if you are in the mood for a summer 'shoot em up'...this is not your film. But if you are seeking out intelligent, fascinating characters (both black and white) that you can actually learn about and care about - go see it. Try eating some popcorn - and using your brain at the same time. I am calling it 'multiplex, multitasking.'

Acting: A terrific cast including Edie Falco, who brilliantly breaks out of her Carmella Soprano role and Angela Bassett (who still has a little of that Tina Turner anger in her) but does a great job as the long lost daughter returning to visit her roots. Bill Cobbs, Jane Alexander, Ralph Waite, Timothy Hutton, Mary Alice, Alan King, Mary Steenburgen, James McDaniel and Gordon Clapp are all splendid in their smaller yet strong roles.

Critters: An alligator (after all, it is Florida) and a lot of Greyhounds...some retired and some still racing.

Food: Some mediocre diner type food, lots of BBQ fare and fried chicken.

Visual Art: Some fitting motel art, diner art, trailer art and apologies to my friends in Florida...but some really bad Florida type art.

Blatant Product Placement: Popeye's Fried Chicken.

Soundtrack: Under whelming

Opening Titles: All credits are at the end.

Theater Audience: A Spartan crew on a hot humid summer's midweek day.

Quirky Meter: John Sayles always gets at least a 2 on this meter.

Predictability Level: Medium

Oscar Worthy: Sadly, no.

Nit Picking: While I am sure nits are rampant in the Florida climate I have no nits to pick.

Big Screen or Rental: Give John Sayles a break and see it on the big screen. However, if you want to rent some of his other terrific films, how about: Limbo, Men With Guns, Lone Star, The Secret of Roan Inish, Passion Fish, City of Hope, Eight Men Out, Matewan or Return of the Secaucus Seven.

Length: 20 minutes over the 2 hour rule.