“Sunshine Cleaning” (2008) – 3.5/5 Stars


Does the independent drama have a formula? “Sunshine Cleaning” is a touching family/relationship drama with a great cast, but there’s also something incredibly familiar about it. For instance, there’s Amy Adams as Rose, a former high school cheerleader now a single mom without a steady paycheck having an affair with a married man (Steve Zahn). What I mean is, Rose Lorkowski is the prototype of the indie protagonist; she’s a lower- middle-class working woman with a boatload of personal issues. As far as independent film characters go, she can get in line, but the difference is clearly the charm of Adams.

As a film, “Sunshine” is a good but basic indie drama that goes as far as its cast will take it. There might not be a more blossoming actress than Adams. She showcased her sweetness in “Enchanted” and channeled that into a sensitive but morally upright nun in “Doubt.” Rose is a natural progression: she’s motivated, but has self-confidence issues. Her sister Nora, played by British actress Emily Blunt, (“The Devil Wears Prada”) is another up-and-comer. Nora is unable to even keep a job and she’s still deeply affected by her mother’s suicide when she was little.

Together, the two go into the crime-scene clean-up business at the recommendation of Rose’s lover, which entails going into people’s homes to clean up bio-hazardous materials. It’s an interesting concept, but instead of expanding on it, rookie writer Megan Holley uses it merely as the vehicle for familial drama and the personal journeys of her characters. The dark humor potential of such a nasty and depressing profession is underutilized, but the story still manages to unfold into an intriguing relationship drama. At that point, it’s all Adams, Blunt and film veteran Alan Arkin as their father, who keep it real and emotional.

Rose and Nora discover more of themselves and what they need in life from their business. They realize what’s been hampering the trajectory of their lives and that family is vital no matter the disagreements. This is nice — and entirely true — but it would’ve been nice to see Holley and director Christine Jeffs take that to the next level instead of settling for those familiar indie characteristics like unresolved family issues and overcoming basic personal obstacles. Instead, we are left to savor the performances of Adams and Blunt as they add gravity and real-world weight to the story.

3.5/5 Stars

Sunshine Cleaning (2008)
Directed by: Christine Jeffs
Written by: Megan Holley
Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn


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