I should hate this movie, but I just can’t. I should hate its truncated
screenplay, its stock characters, and its completely unconvincing
ending, and I sort of do, but not enough.
There’s no doubt that the script for Sunshine Cleaning
is, if not bad, then certainly incredibly uninteresting. Basically the
story of two women down on their luck who start cleaning crime scenes
to earn extra money, it’s earnestly written, and it’s clear first-time
screenwriter Megan Holley loves her characters an awful lot. In a few
spots she knows exactly what to have her characters say at exactly the
right moment, but otherwise the dialogue is serviceable, but not
terribly interesting. Structurally, though, everything is shoved so
forcefully into the three-act structure, particularly at the beginning,
that it’s more jarring than comfortable.
After awhile, though,
the cast starts to win you over, Amy Adams in particular. This should
come as little surprise to anyone who’s been going to the movies for
the last few years, but Amy Adams is awesome. If the screenplay is
earnest, Adams is so wholeheartedly. Completely throwaway moments like
Rose (Adams) accidentally running into a friend from high school or her
reaction to a compliment on her hair are completely infused with life,
and scenes that in any other actress’ hands would be unbearably corny
(I’m looking at you, CB radio to Heaven) are genuinely touching.
Blunt and Alan Arkin also do well in extraordinarily stock roles (and
Arkin’s is one he’s played before, but as my girlfriend said, it looks
good on him). Blunt’s burn-out with a heart of gold and a shot at
redemption is less convincing, but not for lack of effort; she just has
a lot of ground to cover and make believable.
Walking out of the
film, I commented that I liked it in spite of itself, and that holds.
It’s a fundamentally flawed film, but the cast and evenhanded direction
elevate it to an effective, warm little comedy.
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