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Monday, 15 June 2009

Sunshine Cleaning

Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) used to be a high school cheerleader dating the head of the football team. Now she's a maid and a single mum in the same small town she grew up in having an affair with the former head of the football team (Steve Zahn), who's now a cop and married to someone else. So it's not all that surprising that she's not exactly content with her lot in life... unlike her younger sister Norah (Emily Blunt), who seems more than happy sleeping in, living with their father Joe (Alan Arkin), and going from dead-end job to dead-end job. Then Rose finds out that there's real money to be made in crime scene clean-ups, and while it's not an ideal way to make money, with her somewhat odd eight year-old son being kicked out of public school money for private school is what she needs. And so Sunshine Cleaning is born, as Rose drags the initially reluctant Norah to various scenes of violent and natural death to clean up what's left behind. For a while this film does a solid job of working the quirky indy groove, with the grim nature of Rose's job and her life in general providing a much-needed counterpoint to the occasionally too-cute or too-obvious moments that the story brought forward. Adams especially is a great performer, able to embody her characters perky charm while never fully concealing the flickering despair in her eyes. But as things trundle towards a conclusion two things become obvious: this really wants to jam in as many "heartfelt" moments as possible - even if putting them back-to-back is way too much for the viewer to take - and nobody really sat down to work out a proper ending (though to be fair, reportedly a lot of plot-mangling editing took places after this film's Sundance debut). It's not like the film just stops (though one character basically just... leaves), but for something that started out so strong, the way it winds down is a bit of a disappointment no matter how happy an ending for all involved it might be.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #455)