Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning

Film review by: Witney Seibold




            Christine Jeffs’ “Sunshine Cleaning” is well-meaning, but slight. Well-acted, but not revolutionary. Well-made, but ultimately a trifle. It has received a lot of criticism for feeling “too Indie,” which I assume means that its low budget and overwhelming need to be “quirky” can be readily felt. I don’t necessarily agree with this criticism; an Indie film can be about whatever the Hell it wants to be about, quirky or no. I can, however, say that the film does feel strangely typical, and doesn’t stretch too far past its premise; it hopes that the mere idea of a cutesy single mom played by Amy Adams gingerly cleaning up blood and death detritus will be enough to keep our interest.


            Rose Lorkowski (Adams, as pretty as ever) works a deadend job as a maid, and has a peculiar 7-year-old son (Jason Spevak) who doesn’t seem to fit in at any school he attends. She is having an unhealthy affair with her high school sweetheart (Steve Zahn), who is married to someone else. Her deadbeat sister Norah (Emily Blunt) does nothing to help her, and her beleaguered father (Alan Arkin) wants to help her as much as he can, but is too poverty-stricken to do much of anything. Gramps also frequently enlists his grandson’s help in his get-rich-quick schemes.




            Rose learns from her boyfriend that she can make huge amounts of money cleaning up crime scenes. There is some humor in the scenes of the pretty and chipper Adams and Blunt traipsing into blood-soaked places of tragedy, and whisking it all away with a wink and a smile, but there’s not as much humor as the film thinks. Amidst their adventures, both Rose and Norah each meet a gentle soul that they try to connect with. Rose meets Winston (Clifton Collins, Jr., and actor who should be working more), the one-armed cleaning depot guy, and Norah meets Lynn (Mary Lynn Rajskub), a kindly and lonely nurse.


            The film is sweet, but contains no surprises. When the big “reveals” begin to appear, and we learn that a lot of the film’s drama stems from mommy issues, the audience is hardly surprised. I don’t necessarily need every film I see to be fresh and original, but I do want at least an original approach. That old filmmaking adage about audiences needing to be surprised in the same way every time is sorely absent from “Sunshine Cleaning.”


            The film is, however, worth seeing for the strength of the cast (Arkin and Adams are always a delight, and Collins, Jr. once again disappears into his role). Try to look over the contrived moments (making confessions to the dead over a ham radio? Oh please), and enjoy it for the actors.



Published in: on April 22, 2009 at 7:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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