Sunshine Cleaning
We’ve seriously got to get a new roommate.

Golden Mug

Supporting Actress (Emily Blunt)

Theatrical Release Date: 03/20/2009
Director: Christine Jeffs
Cast: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Jason Spevack, Steve Zahn, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Clifton Collins Jr.

Set in picturesque Albuquerque, New Mexico (if you like desert scenery), “Sunshine Cleaning” is being marketed as this year’s “Little Miss Sunshine” because half of its producers also handled that indie phenomenon (and you’ve got Alan Arkin in the mix as well). Combining that notion with my unhealthy admiration for Amy Adams and Emily Blunt meant that my expectation level for the film was high … a little too high.

On the plus side, Amy Adams and Emily Blunt deliver beautiful performances and exhibit great chemistry. They played off of one another with both a wonderful sense of timing but also a tremendous amount of heart. And whereas Adams doesn’t tread on an new ground here, Blunt makes the most of her role and continues to expand her burgeoning film repertoire.

Moving onto the supporting cast, Alan Arkin once again plays a cantankerous patriarch with the magical combination of senility and compassion that allows his character to bond so endearingly with the child actor in the film. With the obvious comparison to “Little Miss Sunshine” tumbling around in my head, some of this felt a little repetitive but it’s very hard not to enjoy Arkin in roles like this.

As for the romantic angles to the film, Steve Zahn and Clifton Collins Jr. provide the opposite ends of the dating spectrum. Zahn’s selfish attitude (and wedding ring) is well balanced by the giving portrayal by Collins Jr. While this element seemed a little too contrived and thrown in, the actors managed to use their screen time effectively, both showcasing their talens and helping to develop Adams’ character.

For all of its charm and heart, however, there’s a clear moment where the wheels come off the film a little and my esteem began to ebb. Without saying too much, it involves Blunt’s actions driving a stake between the sisters’ relationship. I know conflict is one of the required elements in any screen writing manual but the scene reveals unsupported and uncharacteristic facets to Adams and Blunt. Their roles simply didn’t develop in such a way as to make their falling out believable and it derailed (slightly) my enjoyment of the film.

Still, while I ascribe some of my dissatisfaction with perhaps unrealistic expectations, “Sunshine Cleaning” is a touching film, full of heart and good intentions. Audiences looking for something to spend their money on that isn’t complete trash or a remake should give this one a try and I’m going to give it a very solid 3 out of 5. Maybe if Eric Christian Olsen had been given more to do here, helping to flesh out Blunt’s romantic hangups, and if I had kept my preconceptions at the bare minimum, I’d be able to give the film another point. This still is one of the very few films of 2009 that I’m looking forward to seeing again once it comes out on DVD.