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Sunshine Cleaning Gives Bleak Outlook

Cornelius Rogers | Sunday, April 5, 2009

Are you one of the many people who loves “Little Miss Sunshine?” If so, then you may be wondering what “Sunshine Cleaning,” which opened this weekend, has to do with it. The film’s marketing campaign tried to attach itself as much as possible to “Little Miss Sunshine” (LMS), including a similar title with similar font and Alan Arkin reprising his role as the grandfather – although probably not in an Oscar-winning performance this time. The film’s trailer made the film out to be a movie that, like LMS, would combine hilarity with serious drama. This is where the similarities between the two movies end. While LMS told a fairly upbeat and humorous story about a family’s love for each other, “Sunshine Cleaning” tells a story about life’s many messes, and the biggest one of all – death. The film’s central character is Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) a single mother working as a maid hoping to earn enough money to send her child to school and acquire a real estate license for herself. Rose also struggles with her affair with married man Mac (Steve Zahn). Rose’s less successful sister Norah (Emily Blunt) moves from job to job, and both were left emotionally traumatized by their mother’s death when they were children. The two agree to run a crime scene cleanup business to earn more money. The job of removing the physical damages caused by death in other people’s lives causes the two sisters to take a deeper look at the emotional damage left behind by their mother’s death in their own lives. Rose realizes how pathetic her attempts to one-up her high school friends really are. Norah befriends Lynn (Mary Lynn Rajskub), the daughter of one of their crime scene’s victims. Very little about the film marks it as outstanding. The film leaves several of its plot lines unresolved. Rose ends her affair with Mac, but does not find any successful romantic relationship, and Norah’s relationship with Lynn (Mary Lynn Rajskub) collapses. Instead she goes on a road trip, an idea which pops into her head during the final minutes of the film. The film’s redeeming qualities come from the wealth of acting talent. Amy Adams delivers a convincing performance as the single mother dealing with both inner and outer turmoil. Her moments of vulnerability are sure to evoke empathy from the viewers. However, the real talent in this film comes from Emily Blunt, an actress who has consistently delivered solid supporting actress performances, but has never had a definitive leading lady role. Blunt does an impressive job of balancing the inner and outer frustration of her character while getting the viewer to laugh both with her and at her. If the film will be nominated for any Academy Awards, it will surely be for her performance. The film’s director and writer, Christine Jeffs and Megan Holley respectively, do not have many films on their resumes, and it shows. While the film delivers a few awkward laughs in a seemingly morbid narrative, its final message is as murky and muddled as the many crime scenes Rose and Norah clean up.