The opening of Sunshine Cleaning throws a loop. A man parks his car at a gun store, makes a purchase and blows his brains out. It’s the most bluntly vicious moment in the film. Yet, it’s too easy to mistake what follows for cutesy-gory-quirkiness.
The tale of two down-on-their-luck sisters who get work cleaning up crime scenes bespeaks high-concept Sundance flavour of the month. But the effect of Christine Jeffs’ movie is better than that. Her somewhat scattered narrative, written by Megan Holley, is legitimized by Amy Adams’ standout performance as single mom Rose, who feels undesired and needs money to send her son to a different school, and by Emily Blunt as her directionless sister Norah. Neither has fully come to terms with their mother’s death.
Sunshine Cleaning never seriously examines the psychic scarring effect of seeing murdered and mutilated bodies. Instead, Jeffs uses the job as a metaphor. Rose and Norah clean up other peoples’ broken lives, while trying to keep their own from falling apart. Sunshine Cleaning overcomes cheap shot temptation for a sympathetic take on the American underclass. (Mark Palermo)