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With Jim Sabatini

Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning
Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Jason Spevack, Steve Zahn

Rated: R disturbing images, some sexuality and drug use
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 13, 2009 Released by: Overture Films

This new western-based, family dysfunctional comedy seems to have much in common with Little Miss Sunshine, including its title.

Nevertheless, the less original, more self-conscious Sunshine Cleaning still manages to come across as charming, mostly because of the presence of actresses like Amy Adams (Doubt) and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada).

A feminist streak is evident from how Adams and Blunt let their mopey characters be driven as Adams's Rose, a maid, starts a crime-scene janitorial business with sister Norah (Blunt). It's been rather disappointing for them how their professional and personal lives have turned out, with Norah still living with their cranky, scamming dad (Alan Arkin). And, Rose is in an affair with Mac (Steve Zahn), once her high-school sweetheart when she was very popular as the alluring cheerleader. Mac, a cop, got her into the idea of this somewhat grisly entrepeneurial endeavor.

Single-mother Rose, in her hard-case career, has a 7-year-old son Oscar (Jason Spevack) with attention-deficit disorder, who is influenced by grandpa in the hard-scrabble world of gaining a financial edge. In Albuquerque, Rose and Norah go through various emotional platitudes, with the latter harboring sexual repression and resentment. Blunt is kind of a second fiddle to Adams, but the former is quite a comedic foil, as they persevere for themselves and others who have to cope with traumas, most often as a result of suicide. It latches into a vulnerability, especially of Norah, as her mother suffered the same fate.

The light-hearted bluster and mordant insistence doesn't mesh with urgency and vim as it did in Little Miss Sunshine as director Christine Jeffs (Sylvia) and tyro scripter Megan Holly hit more than biohazard impediments when it comes to more-often-than-not engaging cinema than lived-in and a bit dour.

Yet, it's hard not to appreciate Adams, pensive, if brightly transcendent, as Sunshine Cleaning works to a more decidedly capricious close. A plot strand with Blunt and Mary Lynn Rajskub may not be efficiently augmented for some, and a time-worn CB radio in the business van allows for some politically-correct amusement. Still, see it for the leads, and if Arkin is just reprising his Oscar-winning supporting turn, then in suspending one's disbelief to feel good in the end there's more than adequate backup by Clifton Collins as a one-armed hardware store clerk who knows about model-making, BBP licensing and his cleaning supplies.

  Frank Chris Jim Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Sunshine Cleaning  B      B-               B   B 

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