By Andrea Warner
An affable but empty comedy, Sunshine Cleaning stars Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, both of whom are seemingly straining for indie cred after their respective big-budget smash hits, Enchanted and The Devil Wears Prada. The duo portray the screwed-up Lorkowski sisters, Rose and Norah, who start an independent crime-scene cleanup business in order to pay for Rose’s son’s private-school tuition.
It’s quickly established — mostly through heavy-handed dialogue and a slow-motion montage — that Rose (Adams) is the older, “responsible” sibling, a single mom who works as a cleaning lady and longs to get her real-estate license. Norah (Blunt), meanwhile, is the unemployable, heavily eye-lined younger sister who still lives at home with their dad, Joe (Alan Arkin), a big dreamer who invariably fails to deliver on his promises.
Adams is thoroughly winning, and nails perfectly the sad-but-still-hopeful traits of a former cheerleader/prom queen who’s resorted to an affair with her married high-school boyfriend, Mac (Steve Zhan). Blunt, who is British, struggles with her American accent periodically, but brings a lovely depth to Norah, who still mourns her mother’s death, and flirts with her unexpected feelings for new female friend Lynn (Mary Lynn Rajskub).
Writer Meghan Holley seems to subscribe firmly to the ‘tell, don’t show’ school of screenwriting, but the actors rise well above the source material despite being forced to bluntly verbalize their relationships or feelings. Sunshine Cleaning is all over the map, desperately wanting to be a heartfelt, quirky comedy in the vein of indie smash Little Miss Sunshine (from the same producers) but coming off as a lacklustre imitation. Unfortunately, the only real similarities they share are confusingly parallel titles, a reliably charming performance by Arkin, and clunky endings.