C’mon, relax. It’s a Saturday night. Put down the weight of the world for a while and escape via this endearing comedy drama. And it’s lucky Sunshine Cleaning is played for laughs because the comedy is situational and the two leading ladies run a crime scene clean up company. In other words, if the film took itself too seriously and chose a different style of realism, watching it could be a harrowing experience. Here’s a perfect example of what I mean by situational. And here’s my corny joke: the start-up business gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “partners in crime”.
It has meaning
But if you like cinema with messages, this film is accommodating. Here are two: get your own life in order to have any chance of moving forward; and family is important.
Amy Adams and Emily Blunt
The best thing about Sunshine Cleaning is the cast, including the always-slightly-startled-looking Italian-born, US-raised Amy Adams and the always-slightly-sultry-looking UK-born-and-raised Emily Blunt. They play sisters and the way they bounce off each other feels like they’ve got years of history – despite the pair only getting a week of rehearsals before cameras rolled. While Adams has earned about four times the number of awards, including an astounding five Oscar nominations in nine years – for Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, The Master and American Hustle – and while reaching a unanimous decision on the question of who is the better actor is simply not possible, my vote goes to the Brit. I first noticed her when she played the spoiled and deceitful Tamsin in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival opening night film My Summer of Love, and have watched her with interest since in such films as The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria and Looper. In my view, she’s the scene-stealer. That said, we should just thank our lucky stars that both are on board Sunshine Cleaning.
And Alan Arkin, Jason Spevack and Clifton Collins Jr.
And also be thankful for Alan Arkin, who plays their dad, and Jason Spevack as the kid, and Clifton Collins Jr., playing the love interest that is a much better bet. Perhaps Arkin felt some loyalty to three of Sunshine Cleaning’s four producers – Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub and Jeb Brody – because they were also involved in Little Miss Sunshine, which earned the veteran theatre director, author, songwriter and actor his first Oscar. And speaking of those producers, they clearly think that including the word ‘sunshine’ in a film title is as effective as an audience drawcard as the word ‘wedding’. Filmmakers note: there’s research available on wedding but not on sunshine as far as I know.
The outdoor locations are beautiful
Finally, you’ve got to love the spectacular mountains and big skies in the exterior shots. New Zealand director Christine Jeffs chose to film in Albuquerque, the biggest city in New Mexico, and chose to continue working with cinematographer and real-life partner John Toon, collaborator on her previous films Rain and Sylvia. (I once went to a dance in Albuquerque while travelling through and was the only woman in the crowded venue with short hair, but that’s another story.) And another piece of trivia: I learned a new word – tressling – from this interview with Jeffs.