Thursday, January 21, 2010

Home Video: Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning
Directed by Christine Jeffs
Released March 27, 2009

“Sunshine Cleaning” is a movie both about finding hope in the most desperate of situations and also having fun in the midst of morbidity. It’s certainly an entertaining concept, and the film’s premise is just as shiny and hopeful as its clever title. Yet that’s as far as the sunshine goes, since this actually turns out to be a bleak film without the necessary wittiness or powerful undercurrent to justify its negativity. Even its impressive cast can’t do much to lift this film out of the unquestionable rut in which it for some reason sits, and that doesn’t lead to a terribly fulfilling experience.

Many compare “Sunshine Cleaning” to the 2006 Best Picture nominee “Little Miss Sunshine.” Sure, both may boast an occasionally grumpy, occasionally wise-beyond-his years Alan Arkin and a similar title, but there are few similarities beyond that. The newer film possesses the requisite acting talent in their typical roles for its two lead females, an eternally chipper Amy Adams and an alternative, purposefully disgruntled Emily Blunt. Both ladies have been much better before, and the writing here is nothing great, so it can’t be completely their fault. Yet Adams looks visibly pained when things aren’t going her way, and it’s not much of a stretch for viewers to sympathize with her since the movie is a tiresome bore.

“Sunshine Cleaning,” despite its title, is hardly optimistic, and it never seems to escape its particular funk. Bizarrely bad lighting really doesn’t help the film’s sour tone, and the film doesn’t utilize any other filmic devices to enhance its production. Its story is over-simplified, as events and major plot developments happen too quickly without reason, justification, or explanation. Despite the whirlwind of detours, it’s a highly predictable, familiar tale with nothing new or worthwhile to distinguish it from any of its predecessors. It’s almost as if the moral the film is trying to teach is lost on its characters, and that definitely detracts from its considerably lackluster effect. “Sunshine Cleaning” is hardly a glimmer of hope in the midst of tragedy but more accurately a disappointing and extremely missable film.


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