“Sunshine Cleaning” Is A Chick Flick Worth Seeing…For Once
It seems like there is always what could be classified as a “chick flick” in theaters these days. Most of the time, they are movies like “27 Dresses” or “Bride Wars”, which sicken even the strongest of movie goer stomachs. It’s no wonder males across the United States hate these movies before actually seeing one frame of them. It’s not that we can’t handle a movie that prominently features women, it’s that nine out of ten of those movies are completely brutal to sit through.
Now, here comes Amy Adams and “Sunshine Cleaning”. Make no mistake about it, this movie is a chick flick. It has all the elements of a chick flick. It has a single mom (Adams), her irresponsible little sister (Emily Blunt), and their nutty dad (Alan Arkin). One can expect hilarity to ensue, with tears in between. You would be right, but even with those familiar characters, “Sunshine Cleaning” doesn’t come close to reaching Kate Hudson-ish levels of repulsion.
The best thing that “Sunshine Cleaning” has going for it is that it doesn’t hit the normal level of rom-com cheese that people have become accustomed. Adams’ Rose is a lowly maid with a trouble making little boy, Oscar (Jason Spevack). Oscar gets kicked out of public school and Rose is forced to look for a way to earn some quick cash. After a suggestion from her married lover, Mac (Steve Zahn), she starts her own crime scene clean up business. Rose enlists the aid of her of her sister, Norah (Blunt), and away we go.
There are some truly gross yet funny scenes involving their clean ups. It isn’t too graphic and most of the humor is derived from the way that those involved (police officers, medics, etc.) are so nonchalant about the bloody crime scenes in front of them. Rose is also so chipper about the entire ordeal that it makes the nastiness easy on those with weak tummies.
There is a lot of character development in “Sunshine Cleaning” that is pretty familiar to the indie movie scene. Rose and Norah have some mother issues. These really come to light in a subplot featuring Norah and Lynn (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who Norah attempts to befriend after cleaning her dead mother’s trailer. We also have to deal with the typical grandfather-grandson relationship between Oscar and the girl’s father, Joe (Arkin). It’s pretty typical stuff and nothing you haven’t seen prior to this movie.
While that sounds like a bit of a slam, it’s not. “Sunshine Cleaning” is definitely a mishmash of several different movies, but the actors make even the most uncomfortable moments go down pretty easy, if not too easy. While I think Adams and Blunt are very good here, it’s pretty tough to believe that these two losers would…well…be that hot.
Adams is well on her way to being a big time movie star and could claim the “Next Julia Roberts Trophy” that has been passed around for 15 years. Blunt is pretty believable as the uber-bitter little sister with some hardcore personality problems. Arkin doesn’t have as many zingers like he did in “Little Miss Sunshine”, but he is effective in what amounts to the same role here. Clifton Collins Jr. plays Winston, an employee at a janitorial supply store with one arm. Collins doesn’t have much to do but he is pretty engaging when he is on screen. Why doesn’t this guy get more work?
Thankfully, there isn’t an overly cliched ending to “Sunshine Cleaning”. There isn’t a life changing moment of self-realization or a slow motion shot of the girl winning the man of her dreams. I get the feeling that if Kate Hudson were the star of this movie, that is what we would have seen. Instead, this chick flick is R-rated, uncomfortable, and interesting. It could easily be compared to the Jennifer Aniston flick from a few years back, “The Good Girl”. It doesn’t try to wrap everything up with a pretty bow, which is a total relief.