Sunshine Cleaning Review: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

June 23, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Film Reviews


sunshine-300x210SUNSHINE CLEANING: On General Release from Friday 26th June 2009.

I’m always keen to support the little guy in the film industry.

The ‘first time’ scriptwriter, the short with a £45 budget, or the actor who has been plucked from obscurity.

As a result, the most disappointing films to me are those which pitch themselves as being understated indie flicks and then fail to deliver as a full package. Sunshine Cleaning was one such frustration.

The storyline is interesting enough, in theory: two sisters set up their own “crime scene clean up” business and grow as people in the process, overcoming fears and chasing dreams. Girlie and vomit-worthy yes, but if done right – it could have been the next Juno. The problem is, there just aren’t enough of moments of pure joy to see one through.

I have fallen into the habit of giving a movie fifteen minutes to impress me, and after this point I struggle to maintain polite, complimentary composure. Weirdly enough, I felt the mid-section of Sunshine Cleaning was far stronger than the rest of the film. The ending was an uninspiring non-entity, and the beginning was blander than a mouthful of tissue. Thank God for Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin, or it could very well have been a complete disaster.

Blunt channels Darlene from Roseannein her portrayal of angry stoner Norah. Her bitch-ass tattoos combined with Dickie shorts and knee socks combo make her an alternative heroine, and a vast departure from her Devil Wears Prada moment. Arkin reprises his angry granddad role from Little Miss Sunshine, whereas this time his drug of choice is the Get Rich Quick scheme rather than heroin. Far healthier in the long run, we say.

Unfortunately, Amy Adams portrayal of insecure, single mum, Rose, went too far into pathetic wimpiness. I mean everyone likes a good cry but Jesus weeps, that woman looks more washed out than a fairy liquid advert.

Far from being wholly negative, I would like to wax lyrical about the film’s look. Director Christine Jeffs has gone to great lengths to pluck the poignant moments and make them sumptuous and mesmerising.

When Emily Blunt goes “trestling”, the shot of her face framed by sparks as an oncoming train hurtles above her head is gorgeous yet melancholic. In addition, the intersecting frames of Rose’s son Oscar using their van’s radio to speak to heaven is an incredible idea, magically executed. If there’s one scene that Megan Holley deserves writing credit for, it’s this one. But it with be nothing without Jeffs’ stellar cinematic touches.

I have to confess, there was one moment in the glorious torso of the movie, where I actually shed a tear. The problem being, that with so much boring build up, as an audience member you have to ask yourself – is the juice worth the squeeze? Can I sit through 20 minutes of a gash-a-thon for half an hour of reward?

The choice is yours.

Sally McIlhone

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