The movie around them has problems, but Amy Adams and Emily Blunt put on a first-class acting workshop in “Sunshine Cleaning.”
In Christine Jeffs’ dour indie dramedy, they play Rose and Norah Lorkowski, Albuquerque siblings who aren’t handling adulthood very well.
The oldest, Rose (Adams), works for a housecleaning service and struggles to keep a roof over herself and her young son, Oscar (Jason Spevack). The kid is just plain weird — he’s about to be kicked out of elementary school for licking his teacher’s leg.There’s no mention of Oscar’s father, but it might be Mac (Steve Zahn in non-comedic mode), a married police detective with whom Rose has long been having a fling. Back in high school she was the cheerleader and he was the football hero … and they’ve never outgrown their long-ago relationship.
But then that’s the story of Rose’s life — she peaked as a teenager. Now her old gal pals are married to wealthy guys and residing in gated communities while she lives hand-to-mouth.
Norah (Blunt) is a classic dress-in-black slacker who avoids employment and drifts around in a marijuana haze.
Moreover, the two women are haunted by their mother’s suicide many years earlier.
You can’t really blame the girls for their low station; failure seems to be their genetic inheritance. Their father (Alan Arkin) is a shameless old hustler who’s always cooking up disastrous get-rich-quick schemes — like buying tons of seafood wholesale and then trying to peddle it to restaurants under the blistering Southwestern sun.
Megan Holley’s screenplay finds the sisters creating a company that for a hefty fee cleans up after suicides, murders or the occasional old lady who dies in her bed and isn’t discovered until weeks later.
The work is disgusting, but for once the Lorkowski girls feel they’re in control. Rose signs up for night classes on handling biohazards, and by underbidding the competition they actually start getting out from under their debt.
Norah strikes up an odd friendship with a gay nurse (“24’s” Mary Lynn Rajskub). But like just about everything else in the sisters’ lives, it doesn’t turn out well.
“Sunshine Cleaning” never does find the careful balance of humor and drama that it’s looking for. Even so, Adams and Blunt are so good that they keep us hooked right to the end. Both actresses are tackling characters unlike any we’ve seen them do before, and so complete is their immersion that they compensate for all that is merely OK about this movie.
Source: Kansas City