Published Mar 26, 2009Sunshine Cleaning has that American indie film vibe that screams, "I was a hit at Sundance!" It's the quirky, bittersweet story of Rose (Amy Adams), who works as a house cleaner to support her adorable, troubled son Oscar (Jason Spevack) while trying to manage her unreliable sister Norah (Emily Blunt) and her scheming father (Alan Arkin, playing a familiar grumpy grandpa character).
Rose relies on post-it note aphorisms and an affair with her married former boyfriend (Steve Zahn, at his most subdued) to try to forget that she may have peaked in high school. Things begin to change for her and her family when, as a moneymaking venture, Rose and Norah start a business cleaning up the bio-hazardous waste of suicides and crime scenes.
Director Christine Jeffs (Sylvia) gives the film a grainy look of washed out colours that appropriately reflects the dreary world inhabited by the characters. Megan Holley's script tries to pack in a lot of issues (perhaps too many) and is at times, a bit precious in its attempt to be oddball, but it does feature well-drawn characters and an artfully gradual revealing of their tragic past.
Sunshine Cleaning's real strength comes from its performances. Amy Adams is terrific as Rose, facing her troubles with unrelenting optimism and determination, while Emily Blunt tempers her wild child character with sensitivity and compassion. These actors elevate potentially clichéd material, grounding the story in human truths and making it infinitely watchable.
While it lacks some of the punch and payoff of recent indie hits like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, Sunshine Cleaning has a lot of great moments and works quite well as a funny and touching family story. (E1)