Despite the claims of clever marketing tactics, Sunshine Cleaning bears no resemblance to the 2006 indie Sundance hit Little Miss Sunshine. While the studio had hoped to garner as much success as their quirky “sunshine” predecessor (even by bringing on the same producers), this new feature tries too hard to mold itself into an indie formula.
The film depicts a trio struggling to succeed in the unconventional crime scene clean-up business. Out of dire desperation to make some sort of a living, sisters Rose (Amy Adams) and Norah (Emily Blunt) delve into their new profession of scrubbing blood-splattered showers, tidying decomposing bedrooms and disposing bodily fluid soaked mattresses. As if the two bright-eyed girls have no other options?
Actually, their odd job is justified by a blatant metaphor: The girls clean away the deceased’s remnants as a way to help them cope with their own mother’s gory suicide. Meanwhile, Rose is desperate to impress her former high school cheerleading buddies as she struggles to earn enough money to send her son Oscar to a school that won’t punish him for licking his classmates. Alan Arkin plays an equally twisted father who relentlessly concocts failing business ventures, such as selling pounds of rotting shrimp to restaurants.
Written by newcomer Megan Holley through a screenwriting contest and premiering at Sundance last year, Sunshine Cleaning has a tiresome indie pedigree. The only appealing aspect is the charming threesome of actors. Adams proves she can easily transition from an innocent nun in Doubt to a positive mom fighting against grief, debt and low self-esteem, while Blunt instills an empathetic passion into an otherwise banal role. Unfortunately for Arkin, his character is merely a blander version of Grandpa Hoover.
Directed by Christine Jeffs
Runtime: 92 min.
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