Sunshine Cleaning

More than a year after its first twirl at Sundance, this Amy Adams–Emily Blunt dramedy finally shrugs its way into theaters, and it feels almost like an afterthought. A film about sisters who go into the crime-scene clean-up business, it’s a muddled mess: terrific performances (from Adams, especially, as the ex–high school cheerleader now at the bottom of the pile) buried beneath contrivances and clichés, not to mention Alan Arkin cast yet again as the foul-mouthed gramps dispensing four-lettered advice to a troubled youngster (Jason Spevack, as Adams’s son, who’ll lick anything and anyone). Director Christine Jeffs, working with Megan Holley’s screenplay, renders the light and dark as a muddy shade of sitcom-pilot gray. This has the makings of a great Showtime series—feels a bit like Weeds, but with cleaning fluid instead of bong water. Too bad what’s intended to play as funny (girls and gore) stumbles into slapstick; what’s meant to play as profound (girls and dead-mommy issues) sinks into the overwrought. Yet another willful, comically tortured “indie” coated with Hollywood’s happy-ending sheen—or perhaps, at this point, it’s simply hard to buy the perky Adams and pretty Blunt as schlumpy losers trapped in the bland flyover with an Oscar-winner stuck in rerun mode.
March 23-May 7, 2009

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