Posted: 08/09/2009


Sunshine Cleaning

by Del Harvey

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Amy Adams (Enchanted, Julie & Julia), Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) and Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) are the contemporary dysfunctional family in Overture Films’ offbeat dramatic comedy Sunshine Cleaning.

Amy Adams plays Rose Lorkowski, a single mom just barely making a living working for a maid service company. Her son, Oscar (Spevak), is always getting himself into trouble at school, and not because he’s a trouble-maker. Her sister, Norah (Blunt), can’t seem to hold down a job and lives with their dad, Joe (Arkin), a well-meaning fellow whose schemes often fail.

Rose is like many women; they seem to possess that special commodity that all women are supposed to have - beauty. Only it does little for them other than to turn men’s heads. After that, the men seem to lose interest or else their heads swivel on to the next girl walking by. Rose was a cheerleader in high school and dated the quarterback of the football team, Mac (Zahn). She still sees Mac, and even raises his child alone. Problem is, Mac married someone else and she’s got at least one of his kids and another on the way.

Mac is a cop, and his off-hand comment to Rose during one of their weekly trysts sets her off on a journey of self-awareness and self-discovery which will change her and her family’s lives forever.

The comment is something along the lines of her doing crime clean-up since that pays so well. Rose’s situation gets so bad she actually tries it out, with the help of sister Norah. They become pretty good at it, in spite of the fact that they are bumbling and screwing up half the work they do. But that does not deter them. What does foil them is the built-in sense of being a failure they have from their mother’s early death, or from being raised by a man who could never get beyond the idea of his next big dream. They inherited that talent for failure from him, and are essentially passing it on to little Oscar.

Sunshine Cleaning works, but just barely. Most Americans may find it a bit slow moving. Then there are those who just won’t be able to get past the idea that these attractive young ladies are dealing with the aftermath of death and all that that entails. And there is the fact that some opportunities are left out or ignored altogether which ultimately prevent the film from having a single breakthrough moment for Rose. Instead, the story is handled with trust in its audience that they are smart enough to understand human emotions and the human situation; that we will “get it.” That works, most of the time. But there are still moments when we wish the writer (Megan Holley) and the director (Christine Jeffs) had inserted just a little bit of that over-strong emotion in one of the key characters at a time when it would tug at the heart just enough to give us a little bit more. But that moment never happens.

In spite of that minor flaw, Sunshine Cleaning is still a very positive and very uplifting film with characters with realistic stories and situations which are very recognizable. And thanks to the outstanding performances by Adams, Blunt, Arkin, and the rest, this film is quite enjoyable and definitely worth your time.

Sunshine Cleaning also features a wonderful supporting cast that includes Jason Spevak (Hollywoodland), Mary Lynn Rajskub (“24”), Clifton Collins, Jr. (Capote), and Steve Zahn (Perfect Getaway, Happy, Texas).

Sunshine Cleaning is available on DVD and Blu-ray™ on August 25, 2009.

The Sunshine Cleaning DVD bonus features include audio commentary with writer Megan Holley and producer Greg Williamson, “Sunshine Cleaning: A Fresh Look at a Dirty Business,” the theatrical trailer, and Sneak Peeks.

The Sunshine Cleaning Blu-ray™ edition includes the above-mentioned special features, as well as BD-Live capability.

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.

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