Amy Adams and Emily Blunt paired together in a film brought to you by the producers of Little Miss Sunshine? Yes, please. As an added bonus, Alan Arkin shows up, as does Steve Zahn and 24‘s Mary Lynn Rajskub. Sunshine Cleaning was penned by first time writer Megan Holley, and directed by Christine Jeffs (who also directed the dull, but accomplished Sylvia). With these sort of credentials, it’s not too hard to be willing to give the film a chance.
Adams plays Rose Lorkowski, the former high school star, now single mother forced to clean the expensive homes of her former classmates to make ends meet. Arkin plays Joe, her slightly neurotic father (or rather, he’s still playing the same part as he did in Little Miss Sunshine). Blunt plays Norah, the crazy sister who smokes lots of pot and still lives at home. The three are still vastly affected by their mother’s/wife’s suicide many years prior. Rose has a son, who, despite being smarter than average, can’t help but behave like he’s mentally challenged. Rose is sleeping with her married high school sweetheart, and everything seems to be going wrong until she finally decides to start Sunshine Cleaning, a service that gets rid of all the dirty signs of death.
The formula is a little by-the-book. This seems to be a theme with movies out right now (see I Love You, Man). And despite the rumors that this film is ‘heartwarming,’ and ‘uplifting,’ I found it to be kind of a downer. Not as intense as Wendy and Lucy, but still. The performances are top notch. Adams is terrific. She’s one of those actors that manage to express a million emotions on her face at one time. Blunt’s performance is understated, and vastly entertaining to watch. Arkin is, unfortunately stuck in the ornery old man role, but, that’s what he wins Oscars for, right? There is no shortage of gore in the film, it definitely deserved its R rating. Director Christine Jeffs was pretty damn lucky to have two powerhouse leads, or the film most likely would have gotten lost in the idiosyncratic story lines, and shamelessly self-indulgent flashback sequences. While there are several films out there trying to take advantage of the current world’s state, making quirky comedy out of desperation, Sunshine Cleaning is one of the better ones, just don’t expect to leave feeling like all’s well in the world.