(R) I'm recommending Sunshine Cleaning
because it gives us a chance to spend 102 minutes with Amy Adams and Emily Blunt. There are a number of other low-key but strong performers, particularly Clifton Collins Jr. as a sweet, soft-spoken cleaning supply salesman, but the story revolves around Adams and Blunt, two of the most appealing female actors on the contemporary film scene.
The movie is a quirky indie comedy/drama that becomes more dramatic and less comical as it goes along. It nicks bits from other quirky indie flicks, particularly Little Miss Sunshine
, and anyone inclined to be picky will find plenty to carp about here. I didn't feel picky when I saw the film at Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema on Sunday, and I don't feel picky now. You shouldn't expect to be bowled over by Sunshine Cleaning
. Just roll with it. It's a modest little film that entertains and engages despite its limitations. Mostly, it works because of the cast.
The story: Albuquerque twentysomething single mother Rose (Adams) was a popular cheerleader back in high school. Now she cleans houses to support herself and her seven-year-old son Oscar (Jason Spevak). On a regular basis, she meets with her now-married high school boyfriend Mac (Steve Zahn) for some spirited sex at a nondescript motel. Rose's younger sister Norah (Blunt) is more edgy and easily agitated than her sister. She moves from job to job while still living with her pop, Joe (Alan Arkin).
The hook of the movie is that, based on an idea from police officer Mac, Rose convinces Norah to join her in starting a business in the more-lucrative-than-one-might-expect field of crime scene clean-up. They stumble through the founding of the company dubbed "Sunshine Cleaning" by Rose in an attempt to put a cheery face on the grim, gross work learning the rules as they go, while receiving aid and comfort from Winston (Collins), the aforementioned soft-spoken, likable cleaning supply guy.
Writer Megan Holley and director Christine Jeffs use the odd job as a way to examine the long-term reactions of the sisters to their mother's death by suicide years ago, while working the appealing Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe from 24
) into a subplot. The premise serves as an attention-getting framework for the talented cast to work their slow, steady magic. Everyone is at least fine, but the charismatic Adams and Blunt are the main attractions, with Collins doing quiet wonders with his limited screen time.
I may have made Sunshine Cleaning
sound darker than it is there's plenty of funny moments throughout the production. The film is no great shakes, but as a melancholy comedy, it left me feeling charmed by the actors and warmed by the comical/sweet/sad goings-on.
A PERSONAL NOTE: John D. Stevens died on March 21 of natural causes. John and I had a lot of fun together during our high school days. We fell out of touch over the years, but I always remembered him with great fondness. At the funeral home, I learned that he stayed connected over the years by reading this column. There's a funny story connected with that, but I want to get permission from the delightful woman who told it before sharing the details here. This column (except for the morbid parts) is dedicated to John.