Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning
 
 
 

Review by Paul Edwards

Amy Adams always leaves me surprised. Ever since I saw her in Junebug, I’ve been hooked. She brings such nuanced performances to such simple roles, that I couldn’t look away. Her best performance, in my eyes, was as Susan in Talledega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I know that is not really an Oscar-worthy film, but as Susan, Adams owned the film in just one scene. Not many actors can say they can do that, in a popcorn comedy, no less! Anyways, Amy Adams is back from a slight departure in character in Doubt, with her new film Sunshine Cleaning.

In Sunshine Cleaning, Rose, a single mother must find a way to get her troublesome child into school, while taking care of both her unsettled younger sister, Norah (Emily Blunt), and her dad Joe (Alan Arkin), who seemed to have lost some of his marbles. All the while, she has to juggle her past, her loves, and her job. In this mess, she gets into a bio-hazard crime scene cleanup gig. Will that help balance her life or will it just create more of a mess to clean up?

Overall, this film is very engaging. One thing I noticed early on was the lack of makeup for both Blunt and Adams. This was not a pretty story to tell, even though Rose was a cheerleader in the past. We kind of met them, in progress, as Rose conflicted face litters the first few early scenes. The lack of makeup surely made the characters more relatable as it made the priceless facial expressions that Adams makes clearer.

For the trailers and posters that somewhat portrays this film, as some sort of riotous comedy, be ready for plenty of serious and almost gut wrenching moments. Not to say that it was a bad thing or that there are not funny moments, just do not expect a Will Ferrell one-man show going into the theatre. Expect dry, black, and situational comedy that helps break up the tension and also stands up on its own right.

In the end, this is one of the early can’t-miss art-house picks of the year. It’s from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, so it has plenty of reliability in the brand name and Amy Adams performance is an early can’t miss. 

4 ½ / 5 stars
 
 
 

Review by Matthew Frendo

It's possible that Sunshine Cleaning may disappoint a few people.  Those looking the for too-quirky-to-be-true wit of Juno, or the usual romantic blather of the He's Just Not That Into You variety (which basically states that all women really want/need is a relationship and kids...long gone are the days of strong women seen in such films as Thelma & Louise...), should not even bother to see this film.  Sunshine Cleaning is a film that deals more with authenticity than witty dialogue. 

The basic premise is thus: Rose (Amy Adams) is a single mom in debt, and working for a merry maid service.  The father of her child is her high school boyfriend, who is a policeman and now married…to someone else.  The two still sleep together, and one day he mentions she should start a business cleaning up crime scenes, as it pays well.  She does just that, with her sister Norah (Emily Blunt) in tow.  Alan Arkin co-stars as her father, who is always looking for a business opportunity yet always falling up short.  While at first she is doing the business just to get money to go into real estate, she soons begins to find pleasure in sharing a meaningful experience with those grieving through helping them.  And the layers don't stop there, I guarantee you.  Of course, I'm not going to tell you anything else, except that each character is layered with their own issues and quirks.

As for the performances, they all are top notch.  I have to hand it to Amy Adams.  Although I had seen her in Charlie Wilson's War and her small stint on TV's The Office, I mostly took notice of her after seeing her Oscar-nominated performance in Doubt.  She was wonderful there, and she absolutely radiates throughout the screen here.  I am now to the point where I will go see a movie, just based on the fact that she is in it...which is a status that not many actors reach for me.  Emily Blunt is also wonderful as the more edgy sister, who adds both a comedic edge and dramatic heft.  Alan Arkin is wonderfully funny and poignant, while Jason Spevack showed remarkable talent as Rose's young son, who has his own issues to deal with.

Another facet I found enjoyable was that it seemed to be one of few films that takes place in our current hard economic times.  When Rose speaks of being in debt and having to take jobs that are degrading, while others from high school are living it up in big houses and nice cars, it's something many of us can relate to.  It's also something, unfortunately, that Hollywood doesn't seem to notice.

In the end: go see this film.  It's great.

4 ½ / 5 stars

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