Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning: Grade C

Sunshine Cleaning (2008)
Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin; Director Christine Jeffs.

Adams is a single mom working as a housecleaner in Albuquerque. She realizes it’s a dead-end job so she cajoles her sister (Blunt) to start a waste removal cleaning service with her, cleaning up blood and guts after crime scenes, suicides, etc. There are plenty of gross-out scenes as the ladies deal with all manner of body fluids and filth, but the main theme is the drama of Adams trying to better her station in life by doing “whatever it takes” to make good.

The best scene is when she goes to a baby shower for an old high school acquaintance and hopes to appear successful and respectable to the snooty middle-class women there. It is a tribute to the director who pulled that performance out of Adams. Lord knows how many takes it involved; the editing is not seamless. The scene stands out head and shoulders above all others in the movie, the way Virginia Madsen stood out in Sideways(2004) when she explained Pinot Noir. Adams definitely demonstrates her acting chops in this movie.

But beyond that sterling performance, there is little going for this picture. It is moderately funny in places, mildly interesting, slightly charming. Blunt and Arkin turn in good performances. But the story goes nowhere. Two girls start a company, ta-da. Nor is there any character development. So the movie adds up to zero, but Adams is the reason to take a look at it.

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