Monday, April 13, 2009

Movie Review: Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning ** ½
Directed By: Christine Jeffs.
Written By: Megan Holley.
Starring: Amy Adams (Rose Lorkowski), Emily Blunt (Norah), Alan Arkin (Joe), Jason Spevack (Oscar), Steve Zahn (Mac), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Lynn), Clifton Collins Jr. (Winston).

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are too of my favorite actresses working right now, and they almost save Sunshine Cleaning from itself. At its heart, this is another clichéd indie comedy/drama about a dysfunctional family of eccentrics. Adams and Blunt elevate their characters above where they would otherwise be, but in the end, the movie seems to collapse under its own weight.

Rose (Adams) was once head cheerleader and prom queen, who dated the captain of the football team. Now, ten years later, she is raising her son Oscar (Jason Spevack) on her own, working as a maid, and although she’s still sleeping with the captain of the football team, Mac, who is now a cop (Steve Zahn), now it’s as his mistress. Norah isn’t even that lucky. She’s one of those party girls, getting a little old for it, drifting from one dead end job to another, and still living at home with her eccentric father Joe (Alan Arkin), who fails at one get rich scheme after another.

While at a suicide call, Mac notices that they hire a cleanup crew and pay them a few thousand dollars to clean up all the blood. He tells Rose about this, who decides to start up her own business doing the same thing. She calls on Norah for help. For Rose, this is an opportunity to make something of her life – to have something more. For Norah, it provides a job, but it’s one that comes from painful memories – their mother committed suicide, and Norah doesn’t even remember her.

The movie probably sounds a little more interesting that it actually is. True, the film gets off to a good start, and the film never gets boring – watching Adams and Blunt at the top of their game makes sure of that. But after a while, I got a little tired of all the eccentricity. Arkin is essentially repeating his old, wise cracking grandpa role from Little Miss Sunshine. Spevack is one of those “movie kids” that is a bit too odd to be believable. Throw in Mary Lynn Rajskub as a weird blood drive woman who Norah befriends after a job, and Clifton Collins Jr., as the helpful, one armed man who runs a cleaning supply shop and there are just too many weird subplots and tangents and offshoots that movie tries to cram into its running time. Not only that, but questions and plot points seem to be dropped when they become inconvenient to the overall movie, as it just runs onto something else altogether different.

Sunshine Cleaning is far from a bad movie. It’s just that watching it, you wish that Adams and Blunt had a movie that was up to their level. They make believable, realistic characters out of their roles, and are let down by a movie that puts them through one cliché after another. It’s a fine little film, that is disappointing only because of what it could have, should have, been.

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