Saturday, 27 June 2009

Sunshine Cleaning - Review

Sooo from the producers who brought the world the delightfully quirky and completely fantastic Little Miss Sunshine we have um... Sunshine Cleaning which (I thought was hilarious) was also a hit at the Sundance Festival last year. Despite the bizarre coincidence in the title, the similarities do indeed end there...except that Alan Arkin is in it...and plays an eccentric Grandad...other than that we got a whole new film...honest. Sunshine Cleaning is another in a long line of "indie comedy-dramas" that is usually light on the comedy and actually still quite light on the drama. Starring two of the blog's favourite young leading ladies Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, Sunshine Cleaning is an intimate tale about a former high school cheerleading captain Rose Lorkowski (Adams) now a thirty-something single mother who cleans houses for a living. Wanting to send her trouble-making eight-year-old son Oscar to a private school, Rose decides to take her married lover's advice and get into the "lucrative" business of crime scene clean-up. Rose convinces her disillusioned, underachieving sister Norah (Blunt) to join her in the enterprise, which she calls (that's right) "Sunshine Cleaning." So far so relatively indie...

Being a huge fan of Adams and Blunt's work to date I was not surprised to see both of them lend their talent and class to this movie so seamlessly though it is unfortunate that the screenwriter could not have done the same, this might come across as quite harsh as the concept of the film is actually really good and the dialogue and situations were believable and well structured, however with a film that (from the trailers) looked like it promised so much it never actually had the chance to breathe and develop into the beautiful, uplifting, coming of age story that could have been. Due to this, certain characters/actors will suffer, and the victim in this instance was unfortunately Emily Blunt's Norah who at times was quite badly handled in comparison to Adams' much stronger and more focused Rose, but arguably that might have been the point, with Norah being the younger, rebellious and more outspoken sister of the two. Norah just never felt like she fitted into the story properly, from the uncomfortable estranged relationship she developed with a victim's daughter to her erractic exit from the story at the film's climax, you never really felt the director or screenwriter knew what they truly wanted from her. As already mentioned though Blunt delivers a terrific performance from what she was given, and took on a character type that she is not normally associated with, with complete grace. Arguably though this was Adams' film to once again show the audience she is a prominent leading actress, who will no doubt reap countless awards to go with her many nominations in the not so distant future. Outside of the two leading ladies, old veteran to the game Alan Arkin provides some genuine comical gold as the ladies' eccentric father obsessed with "get-rich-quick" schemes and actually developing a brilliant on screen chemistry (exactly like how he did in Little Miss Sunshine) with Rose's 'bastard' son Oscar played by the quite impressive, Jason Spevack, who once again was bizarrely handled in that he was considered to be a terror near the start of the film but never really showed any signs of being anything other than an imaginative active 8 year old boy.

Aside from the fantastic performances you would already expect from such quality actors, Sunshine Cleaning never felt like it delivered on its desired intentions it was setting out to do, which was a cleaning team who truly connected with their clients to help them handle death. Though arguably giving a positive uplifting spin on such a taboo subject, outside of the bizarre situation with Norah and the doctor in the blood bank I don't truly remember seeing any scenes in the film where the audience get to see the two leads really connect and help these people. Maybe this was due to poor editing or lack of budget that the creators had to cut some of the story but I personally was a little bit disappointed in this aspect. Story and character development aside the is little else to really complain about in terms of the production of this film, it did make me smile and despite its misgivings I found myself being sucked in with something wonderful to marvel at just as I thought it was maybe starting to meander.

Final Thoughts
A light hearted tale about the strong bonds between family in the face of real life struggles, Sunshine Cleaning gives the audience very much an enjoyable tale from two of the industry's most talented young leads, backed up with the sheer class and experience of the great Mr. Arkin. Though enjoyable it's ultimate failure was not living up to this promise of a completely uplifting experience and you felt that there wasn't really a huge change in any of the character's lives from how the film began to how the film ended, which is a huge shame because I really wanted to love this story for what it was. Unfortunately too short reflecting on this I honestly think (and this is without a doubt the first time I've ever even suggested this...) that Sunshine Cleaning would of had absolutely huge potential and worked brilliantly as a well made television series, I doubt however that will ever come to pass. Though enjoyable for the most part it was unfortunately a much ado about cleaning/nothing.


See this if you liked...
Little Miss Sunshine, Waitress, Me And You And Everyone We Know

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