‘Sunshine Cleaning’ an Optimistic Dark Comedy

Take a dark comedy and put a positive spin on it and you get Sunshine Cleaning. Probably the oddest independent movie so far this year comes from Christine Jeffs, who directed the 2003 sleeper Sylvia starring Daniel Craig. Jeffs' directing is mind-numbing; he finds the natural beauty in everything from a blood-stained mattress in a dumpster to a shitty run-down motel. Sunshine Cleaning stars Amy Adams as Rose, a struggling single mother who's simply trying to make ends meet. Adams is amazing and equally stunning as she brings what she did in the 2005 dramedy Junebug to the Cleaning table, although Emily Blunt who plays her sister Norah steals the show. Blunt has appeared in The Devil Wears Prada, Dan in Real Life and Charlie Wilson's War before this but no role, whether it be a rebel daughter or a fashion designer's snob of an assistant, has suited her as well as a childish party girl in Sunshine Cleaning. With the right moves from here, she could go on to become the next Zooey Deschanel, this being her Elf. Portraying the two girls' father is Alan Arkin, who is Hollywood's go-to grandpa. Throughout his career, he's done two types of roles: a nice old man or a brilliant asshole. Combine the two and it's Joe Lorkowski, a salesman who no one wants to buy from.

Sunshine Cleaning tells of Rose Lorkowski and her sister Norah. After a spat with Rose's son's school, she pulls the kid out of there and wants to put him in a private facility; there's only one problem: no money. So the sisters open a biohazard and crime scene clean-up service that they later call 'Sunshine Cleaning' to put a "positive spin on things." From there it goes to both funny and heartfelt moments involving Steve Zahn (in maybe the worst shape of his career), Mary Lynn Rajskub (welcome back to the movies), Paul Dooley and one very convincing Clifton Collins Jr. Blunt's witty gags and Adams' weepy dilemmas turn Sunshine Cleaning into more than just a comedy, but a relatable one at that.

I could rip this movie apart; it's not perfect. The jokes are hit-or-miss and it takes a while to fully get into the story. I'm going to look at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. Megan Holley's (2002 indy The Snowflake Crusade) characters are only as witty and charming as the actors and actresses make them. It's not as great a dark comedy as School for Scoundrels or Heathers, but I'd right as rain prefer a flick like this over a bad McG movie (Terminator Salvation, ahem). Directing rocks, cinematography is amazing, the acting is downright awesome and the script is able. This might be nuts, but to me that makes for a pretty great movie.

3.5/5 stars.

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