Monday, March 22, 2010

"Sunshine Cleaning" (2008)

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

"Sunshine Cleaning" is a charming dramedy starring Amy Adams as Rose, a former high school hot-shot cheerleader who finds that her life hasn't fulfilled all the promises it made back then.  While many of her friends are well-to-do and married, Rose is a single mother struggling at her job as a house cleaner.  Her sister, Norah, is rough-around-the-edges, unable to hold a steady job.  Her boyfriend is... well, he's married.  Her father, Joe, is a man always managing to find a new, sure-thing business venture that never pans out.  And her son, Oscar, just got kicked out of school for licking a teacher's leg.  In short, life isn't so rosy (har-har).

One day, Rose's boyfriend Mac (Steve Zahn) tells her about how much money she could make cleaning up crime and trauma scenes.  Taking his advice, she starts her own business, Sunshine Cleaning, and recruits her sister Norah to help her out.  Unlicensed and inexperienced, the two charge almost ridiculously low prices (compared to their competitors anyway) and start picking up jobs all over town. 

"Sunshine Cleaning" isn't a full-out comedy.  It's not laugh-out-loud funny; instead, it's more the kind of movie that just has you smiling most of the way through.  The characters are quirky, but relatable.  Humor comes from their responses to certain situations, rather than from slapstick or typical jokes.  There's humor in the dialogue, sure, but it's not quite the sit-com style setup that can end up seeming very flat or theatrical.  "Sunshine Cleaning" has a very natural ease to it, and much of that comes from a capable cast.

Amy Adams is the star of the show here, exuding an extremely likable presence as Rose.  Blunt does fine as Norah, the more damaged of the two sisters, as she undertakes her own journey after discovering something at one of the crime scenes she cleans.  The two of them have great chemistry as sisters, as well, and handle the lighter, comedic aspects of the film with ease.

Underneath it all, however "Sunshine Cleaning" is a rather typical tale of self-discovery and improvement.  It's the details that make it special, with an inspired premise and interesting characters.