Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning

I thought it was going to be a comedy. It was billed as a comedy. The previews were funny. And, truth be told, parts of it were funny. But it was really one of those slice of life dramas in which the characters experience the absurdities of life and they (and you) just have to laugh. That's not the same thing as a comedy. And I wanted a comedy.

But I enjoyed it anyway, up to a point. And that's saying something.

Sunshine Cleaning, with Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin is a decent film that doesn't quite go anywhere but that's ok. Amy Adams plays Rose, the former head cheerleader who didn't marry her quarterback-turned-police-detective boyfriend but she had his child and still fools around with him in cheap motels. To support herself and her now elementary-school-aged son, Oscar, she cleans houses and dreams of getting her real estate license.

Her younger sister Norah (Emily Blunt) has trouble holding down a job but she does baby sit Oscar on the nights Rose is out. Norah still lives at home with dad, Alan Arkin, who seems to have now been typecast in the crochety and eccentric but loveable old man roles. Or maybe that it just seems that way because this film was produced by the same people who brought us Little Miss Sunshine.

When Rose learns that she can make good money by starting her own business cleaning up crime scenes she talks Norah into working with her and a series of vignettes ensue as the sisters clean up varying degrees of disgusting crime scenes. It is a journey for the two sisters and they each learn things about themselves and each other along the way.

Amy Adams must be exhausted. Since 2007 she has starred in Enchanted, Charlie Wilson's War, Miss Pettigrew Lives for the Day, Doubt, and now Sunshine Cleaning. She will be in the new Night at the Museum which opens soon. And in August her film with Meryl Streep (her second), Julie and Julia, will open. That's a lot of films to do in a few short years. And she was great in all of them, including this one. She brings a sincerity to her roles that makes me believe completely in whoever she is playing.

This is the first writing credit for Megan Holley and it had the feel of a first time script from someone with a lot of potential. It was a good premise and some of the scenes were really well done - either funny or poignant. But unlike, for instance, the characters in Juno, the eccentricities of these characters sometimes seemed drawn for effect rather than to arise naturally. Norah, for instance, at times seemed to be created as a foil for Rose and bordered on caricature. On the other hand, the subplot between Norah and Lynn, the daughter of one of the victims Norah and Rose have cleaned up after, could have been an entire movie if it had been fleshed out.

This film was written by a woman and directed by another woman, Christine Jeffs, who has only a couple of other films to her credit. It is a story about a woman trying to find herself and make a place for herself in this world. I'm glad I saw it. But I was really in the mood for more of a comedy.

Here's the trailer: