Sundance Review: Sunshine Cleaning
by Alex Billington
January 19, 2008
Two of my favorite celebrity obsessions at the moment are Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, so it's without a doubt that I went into Sunshine Cleaning expecting a grand experience. Unfortunately what I was discovered was a lot less entertaining and a bit rough on the edges. The concept was great, but the film was not. Not only is director Christine Jeffs a bit rusty, but first-time writer Megan Holley's script was what really pulled this down even further. Despite those larger issues, I did have a smile on my face most of the way through.
In Sunshine Cleaning, sisters Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) and Norah (Emily Blunt) couldn't be more unalike. Rose, a cheerleader in her high school days, is now a single mom caring for a troublemaking 8-year-old son and struggling to get by. Norah is a pot-smoking, jobless bum who still lives in her father's house. When Rose desperately needs money to put her son into a private school, she decides to convert her maid service into an biohazard waste clean-up business, aka crime scene cleaning. She enlists the help of her sister and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
The biggest issue with Sunshine Cleaning lies in the fact that it's very tough for any filmmaker to find a balance between morbid subject matter (e.g. bloody crime scenes minus the body and death), comedy, and uplifting drama. This never really found that balance. There was way too much drama and not enough comedy. But who am I to say that this needed to be a comedy instead of a drama? Although it eventually gets to some heartwarming dramatic scenes, Sunshine Cleaning suffers from so many script problems and an excess of expositions and happenings, that none of the drama really works.
Where Sunshine Cleaning does shine is with Alan Arkin, who plays the sisters' father. Like Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War, all I wanted is more Alan Arkin. Amy Adams is always charming, but doesn't deliver nearly as endearing of a performance as Enchanted, and Emily Blunt puts in even less. Arkin was such a great fatherly character for both of the sisters and had perfectly timed and executed comedic quips that I think only ever laughed at anything he said. That's not a good sign, mind you. It's a good attempt, but Sunshine Cleaning turns out to be only a cloudy day with a small chance of rain.
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