JOHN SAYLES FANS will purely love his ambling, old-fashioned leftist ode to the folks of Florida—and so will fans of The Sopranos' Edie Falco. She plays a noble but plumb-wore-out motel owner courted by malevolent developers of her beach-town home (and by well-meaning developer Timothy Hutton, who walks around with his habitual quizzical look—the one that says, "Didn't I used to have a great future?").
Falco makes the role real, and quite distinct from what you've seen from her—she seems to change the very shape of her facial expressions. The movie doesn't have a strong narrative through line, but every character in the ensemble drama has an absorbing story: the Falco character's mom (Jane Alexander), who pours her thwarted ambition into school plays; Angela Bassett as a local golden girl whose mom (Mary Alice) sent her away after football hero "Flash" Williams (Tom Wright) impregnated her decades ago (and now he's back home, too!); Mary Steenburgen as a spoiled wife obsessed with a silly Seafair-like pageant, Buccaneer Days. Alan King and a passel of golf buddies eloquently mouth off about Florida's changes like a Greek chorus.
Sayles has made better movies, but none since The Return of the Secaucus Seven can boast this one's wealth of characters. There are practically no DVD extras beyond a Sayles commentary track, but so what?
ONLY 21 DAYS left till Xmas! What to buy? Out Dec. 3, Lilo & Stitch is a good family bet with its delightful non-CGI animation, as are an entire series of titles in "Walt Disney Treasures" with Goofy, Mickey, and company. Sure to be a big seller, Goldmember's best feature should be commentary from Mike Myers and his director, Jay Roach (stare at Beyonc頩n the music videos if you must). Unfortunately, Mel Brooks supplies no chat track for The Producers, although there's an accompanying extra or two (including deleted scenes). Among art films reaching disc, 1972's Siddartha has been transferred from a restored print. Another title that played Seattle this year, Zhang Yimou's Happy Times is maudlin but sweet. Henry Miller fans can enjoy Quiet Days in Clichy, which was banned for its sexual content back in supposedly freewheeling 1969.