Am I the only one on the planet who liked “Little Miss Sunshine,” sort of, without believing a second of it? I never believed those nutty, single-trait characters belonged to the same fractured family. I didn’t believe the rousing feel-good finale. What I liked, I liked because of what the performers did to transcend their own material.
I prefer the equally modest ” Sunshine Cleaning,” again without believing a second of it. It shares with the other audience-friendly “Sunshine” film a key word in its title; a setting, at least in part (Albuquerque); a key supporting actor ( Alan Arkin as a crusty paternal figure); and a rather studied sense of quirk. Nonetheless, the performers get a lot going, and the ensemble’s very easy company.
Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play Rose and Norah, sisters who start up an unlicensed crime-scene cleanup business. Rose is the older, more responsible one, trying to provide for her easily distracted preteen son. She’s in the ultimate bantamweight relationship: regular trysts with her married high school boyfriend, a cop played with unexpected tenderness by Steve Zahn. Norah’s life is a tumble of sullen hookups and general unreliability. The sisters are haunted by the suicide of their mother; for them the biohazard removal biz is a way of processing their grief, and bringing to survivors the comfort they themselves seek.
Certain narrative events in “Sunshine Cleaning”—a fire, for one—are more about dramatic convenience than the mess of real life. It helps to have actresses as vibrant as Adams and Blunt around. Blunt has a way of diving into every moment headlong, physicalizing each interaction. You could call it mugging—she’s certainly a willing ham—but when you consider this 26-year-old British actress’ breakout role in “My Summer of Love,” and then stack that against her scene-stealing bitchiness in “The Devil Wears Prada,” you realize how good she really is.
Adams, 34, is at once more self-effacing and more naturally ebullient. (Blunt, on the other hand, is naturally sardonic.) Do we believe these two are sisters? We do, in fact, even when Megan Holley’s screenplay sticks to the surface. Certain details feel honest. (There’s a depressing reality to the way Rose downgrades herself with lines such as “I’m an idiot” or “I’m so stupid.”) The director, New Zealander Christine Jeffs (“Sylvia”), loosens the plotting as best she can, letting the interactions breathe. Her work, and the film, is strictly about the performers.
Source: Chicago Tribune