A review of “Sunshine Cleaning” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: R for language, gore and sexuality

Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

 

 

          Amy Adams packs her winning charm in this ultra quirky dramedy about fielding life’s curveballs.

          Rose Norkowski (Adams) is between a rock and hard spot – shacking up with ex-high school squeeze cum married cop Mac (Steve Zahn), raising a kid on her own and wasting her shiny potential by cleaning houses for a living.

          A chance suggestion by Mac (after a particularly unsavory day on the job) turns to gold when Rose partners with sister Norah (Emily Blunt) to start her own crime scene clean-up company, aptly named Sunshine Cleaning. If gory biohazard removal isn’t a growth industry then what is?

          The frustrations pile on fast and furious; Norah’s reluctance to cope with life’s tough realities (and body parts), finding precious spare time for a certification in blood-borne pathogens (affectionately known as BBP), and coping with a feisty, huckster dad (Alan Arkin reprising his “Little Miss Sunshine” routine) who’s perpetually one scheme away from making it.

          The expected conventions are all in place – a mysterious childhood tragedy, a surprising love interest (the always intriguing Clifton Collins Jr.) and the challenges of single parenting. Adams has the chops, bringing a fresh spin to deep hurts and a spark to her determination to get things right. Blunt plays off her with ease – two hot actresses on their inevitable paths to greatness. But the narrative has trouble balancing its dark tones and its peculiar humor, never finding a comfortable niche.

          Climax is an unnecessary stretch for a happy ending – cashing in on same production company’s “Sunshine” (are we sensing a theme here?) and its electric box office success.