Monday, September 21, 2009

Movie Log: Sunshine Cleaning

I've seen six movies since Sunshine Cleaning -- and that's leaving aside the ways that's its set up as a semi-generic indy movie, with a lot of familiar elements to confuse viewers like me -- so my memories of it are fuzzy.

Amy Adams is ex-cheerleader Rose Lorkowski, and, for once in this history of movies for adults, we're supposed to be on her side. Luckily, her cheerleader-ness isn't particular important to the movie, and her post-high-school history never becomes clear. (Sunshine Cleaning has a lot of vagueness, particularly in its characters' backgrounds, where a more careful screenplay would have had specifics.) She has a son -- who the movie hints, but never quite manages to say, is the result of her long-term and now adulterous relationship with her highschool boyfriend Mac (Steve Zahn) -- and whom is having issues at school that essentially get him kicked out of the public system.

(The Wife and I, who have a special needs child of our own, were annoyed and dumbfounded by this turn of events, particularly since, at this point in the movie, we still thought it took place somewhere in California. When it finally located itself outside Phoenix in neo-Libertopian Arizona, this event became slightly more reasonable, but I really doubt any state is so blunt and old-fashioned as to state that a parent needs to place their child in a private school, since the public system won't accommodate him.)

Anyway, Rose's life is a mess -- she lives at home with her always scheming father Joe (Alan Arkin, proving the most obvious strategem to make this film look like Little Miss Sunshine Redux), sleeps with Mac when she's supposedly taking nightschool courses, and cleans houses for the now-rich girls she went to school with. And so she decides to better herself in the traditional American way: find a job that pays really well, and do it in a half-assed way.

For Rose, that's hazmat cleaning -- crime scenes, suicides, and other dead bodies, mostly. It's dirty, disgusting, and horrible, but it does pay very well. She drags her ne'er-do-well sister Norah (Emily Blunt) into the business, and things go along entertainingly for a while until there's the required Big Problem.

The Big Problem gets a Big Solution, with much hugging, and everyone's self-esteem is restored. Rose even gets what might turn out to be a love interest -- a quirky, damaged character, of course, since this is an indy movie -- who is not married to someone else.

Sunshine Cleaning means well, and it's pleasant to watch, with solid acting and decent dialogue. But it doesn't quite cohere, and it feels like it was made up on the fly from the rag-bag of Random Indy Movie Tropes. If you like seeing movies like this, Sunshine Cleaning is a minor entry, but moderately worth it. If you generally don't like movies about aimless people trying to figure out what to do with their lives, there's no reason to seek out this one.
Listening to: The Moldy Peaches - Anyone Else But You
via FoxyTunes


Anonymous said...

"If you generally don't like movies about aimless people trying to figure out what to do with their lives, there's no reason to seek out this one."

I'd pay money to watch Amy Adams read from the phone book, she's that good-looking.

But yeah, the movie was a minor disappointment.

Jeff P.

Unknown said...

Re Arizona school systems-actually, this happened to friends of mine-their daughter was deemed "too difficult to deal with" and was kicked out of 1st grade in their local school district.

Anonymous said...

Both Virginia and Maryland will tell parents that their kids have to go to private schools because their learning disabilities can't be handled at public school. And if the parents think the kids need a better school, they have to pay for it.

Here's a WashPost article about one student.

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