From the producers of Little Miss Sunshine comes another seemingly bright dramedy titled Sunshine Cleaning, about two down-and-out women who start a crime scene cleaning business. Though I'm generally not fooled by the "from the producers of" marketing spin films are often given, I did fall for this one: following the trailers, casting and even early reviews, Sunshine Cleaning did seem like another funny drama. Unfortunately, there isn't much to sink your teeth into here.
Oscar nominees Amy Adams and Emily Blunt star as sisters Rose and Norah, who start to dabble in the lucrative crime scene cleaning business on recommendation from Rose's so-called boyfriend (Steve Zahn), who's a detective and also married to another woman. As their business begins to take off, Rose begins to realize that her boyfriend isn't all he's cracked up to be and forms a quasi-relationship with the one-armed clerk (Clifton Collins, Jr.) at an industrial cleaning store where she buys supplies. Meanwhile, Norah struggles with her own insecurities and begins to bond with Chloe from Fox's "24." Alan Arkin also has a role as the sisters' father.
Sunshine Cleaning is an effective little drama that moves along at a brisk pace and offers up fine, light performances from Adams and Blunt. The two have good chemistry together and are believable as sisters. Adams is one of my favorite actresses working today and she doesn't disappoint, though she's delivered better - in both dramas and comedies - than she does here. Blunt is also good, though her character isn't particularly memorable. Collins doesn't get much to do, which is a shame because he has one of the more interesting characters in the film. Arkin is fine, though we've seen this exact character out of him before.
The movie is worth seeing, but those expecting that blend of laugh-out-loud jokes and heartfelt family drama that was seen in Little Miss Sunshine will be disappointed. Sunshine Cleaning is more drama than comedy, though its drama is hardly dramatic for the most part. It may be more true to life, but the film fails to take advantage of its simply premise as much as it could have. All in all, it's a good film that doesn't live up to its potential.
Sunshine Cleaning will make for a good rental, but it's a shame I can't give it a more glowing review. A few more laughs would have taken this film a lot farther without sacrificing the story the filmmakers set out to tell.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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