Saturday, March 14, 2009
Some movies defy easy description. Sunshine Cleaning definitely falls into that category. When I've tried to give a plot synopsis to people, I'm usually met with quizzical reactions: "Would I really enjoy seeing a movie about a struggling single mom who starts a bio-hazardous waste removal business with her slacker sister?" Yes. You would. It's a fresh, quirky character-driven story with some laughs and a lot of heart that transcends its unappealing-at-first-glance plot. It's kind of like Six Feet Under in that regard, you just have to see it. One big good reason to see the film: Amy Adams. She's been everywhere the last year or two, and we've loved her in Enchanted, Miss Pettigrew, and Doubt. Here she plays a much more down-to-earth character, still optimistic, but definitely not a princess or a nun, and with a lot more dimensionality, a hard-shelled pragmatism alloying her sunny side. Emily Blunt provides a great disfunctional sister character (think Claire, speaking of Six Feet Under) who has a heart buried under her cynicism, and Alan Arkin is charming as the outspoken grandfather full of schemes that never quite pan out. I enjoyed the original story, but what really sticks with me most are the scenes that really show off the characters more than move the plot: the grandfather encouraging his grandson about school, the grandson talking to a shopkeeper (sensitively played by Clifton Collins Jr.) making model airplanes, the sister taking her new friend "trestling", Amy Adams' moments of quiet desperation. And of course Amy Adams' reconciliation with her sister in the end is heart-warming, in a genuine and non-maudlin way. I'm very impressed with director Christine Jeffs and writer Megan Holley (her first film), and their original story with its quirky, genuine, and engaging characters.