Directed by: Christine Jeffs
Premise: A pair of sisters (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt) start their own biohazard removal service, in which they clean up after deaths and crime scenes.
What Works: Sunshine Cleaning has a couple of really strong performances by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt. Adams employs her usual innocent sweetness but applies it to a character who is clearly damaged by heartbreak and by failed expectations for her life. Adams and the filmmakers take some risks with her character by making her rather thoughtless or inconsiderate at times, as she dumps her child off on others and engages in an affair with a married man. Blunt also gives a strong performance as the unemployed and unreliable sister. Rather than just making her incompetent or lazy, the film shows her inability to focus and gives her opportunities to show compassion that allow her some terrific moments of empathy. The script is unified very nicely by showing how this family was derailed long ago by the suicide of their mother, and the retroactive effects of her death on her daughters and in their choice of work.
What Doesn’t: Sunshine Cleaning suffers from a lack of weight or urgency; it is unclear what is at stake in the story. Alan Arkin plays the father of Adams and Blunt’s characters and he is largely wasted here, spending most of his time babysitting his grandson and trying to teach him about business. If there is supposed to be a link between the business advice given by Arkin’s character and the ups and downs of his daughter’s new business venture, it is very unclear.
Bottom Line: Sunshine Cleaning has a pair of terrific performances by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt but the structure and plot of the story are not as good. More than anything, the film needs something more concrete at stake in this story, something that the success or failure of the business will ride upon.
Episode: #240 (May 24, 2009)