Sunshine State

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.

mag cover This article is from the August 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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