Thursday, March 26, 2009
New directions in chick flicks: dried arterial blood sprays, maggots, and heart tugs. That’s the situation for Sunshine Cleaning’s Lorkowski sisters, Rose (Amy Adams) and Norah (Emily Blunt), a pair of down-on-their-luck Albuquerque women who go into the post-mortem “crime cleanup” business when nothing else seems to be working for them. It’s a comedy.
We can imagine the producers sitting around figuring out how to sell this one. It’s got lovable female losers, a precocious but troubled little kid (single mom Rose’s son Oscar, played by Jason Spevack), a beat-up van they all ride around in, and Alan Arkin as the sisters’ eccentric (what else?) dad. Hmmm. Everybody liked Little Miss Sunshine – why not call this one Sunshine Cleaning? Surprisingly, director Christine Jeffs (she helmed Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sylvia Plath bio, Sylvia) and fresh-out-of-the-box screenwriter Megan Holley pick up these scattered, slightly used remnants and make a believable, if a trifle hackneyed, portrait of lower-middle-class American life out of them, with major input from the two actors.
Adams we all know about. In Junebug, Charlie Wilson’s War, and especially in last year’s nun-fest Doubt, her performances plumbed depths of sincerity. She has a kind demeanor and knows how to use it sparingly. Her Rose Lorkowski has something to prove to everyone, including herself. Blunt’s Norah is the showboat role. It’s one thing to play stupid, but it’s much harder to play defiant, needy, wounded, childish, and basically well meaning at the same time – that’s what Norah is all about. With her extra-heavy eye makeup and her guilty memories of their late mother, Norah is a tricky piece of work, but Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Jane Austen Book Club, Charlie Wilson’s War with Adams) hits it out of the ballpark – and drives in Arkin, who was already on third with a triple.
SUNSHINE CLEANING (3) Directed By Christine Jeffs. With Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Jason Spevack and Alan Arkin. R, 142 minutes. At the Century Cinemas Del Monte.