New Internationalist

Sunshine State

August 2002

John Sayles’ Florida is a magical place where developers swap mangrove forests for ‘nature on a leash’. Two women, played by Edie Falco and Angela Bassett, return to their roots in a northern coastal Florida threatened by resort developers. The monologues which drive this classy ensemble piece are memorable, but the one-liners are souvenirs. Edie Falco’s character Maryl is a tough cookie whose daddy ‘wouldn’t sell if he had his nuts in a trash compacter’. His reticence frustrates real estate’s ‘frontal assault’ on her beachhead long enough for Maryl to have a dalliance with the idealistic architect of destruction played by Timothy Hutton.

Meanwhile, black residents raise a little token hell to delay being bulldozed from their beachfront.

Maryl’s faux-mermaid philosophy is ‘keep that smile on your face, even when you’re drowning’ – but using wood from a burnt-down juke joint to build a coffin wins best metaphor in an inspired script written in blood and sea salt.

While I was in Florida for the Bush coup about a million seagulls set down in unison over the oyster flats of Apalachicola. The scene recalled an Everglades guide who dismissed Yankees gawking at a solitary flamingo by recalling a time when there were so many (flamingoes, not Yankees) that they would blot out the sun. Sayles shows how humans have commoditized the planet in their Banana Republic – and only those who fight it derive meaning from their shallow lives.

Matthew Reiss

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 348 This column was published in the August 2002 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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Sunshine State Fact File
Product information written and directed by John Sayles
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This article was originally published in issue 348

New Internationalist Magazine issue 348
Issue 348

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