In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_mv5bmji4njm0nzuymv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzq1ntawnte_._v1__sx1216_sy640_

Faith of Our Fathers

"Faith of Our Fathers" doesn't work, and not because of its Christian message. The main problems are the obvious script, the bad acting, and the…

Thumb_mv5bmjm1ntc0nze4of5bml5banbnxkftztgwndkynjq1nte_._v1__sx1216_sy640_

Terminator Genisys

Schwarzenegger has turned into your elderly uncle, dancing like a goofball at your wedding after a couple glasses of champagne. He knows he’s being silly,…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning Movie Review
  |  

"Sunshine Cleaning" is a little too sunny for its material. Its heroine, Rose, is a single mom in desperate need of income, trapped in a one-way affair with her high-school beau, who fathered her son but married someone else. Her son is always in trouble at school. Her sister, Norah, is a hard-living goofball. Then Rose starts a new business cleaning up messy crime scenes.

Does this sound sunny to you? The material might have promise as a black comedy, but its attempt to put on a smiling face is unconvincing. That despite the work by Amy Adams as Rose and Emily Blunt as Norah, two effortless charmers who would be terrific playing these characters in a different movie. And Alan Arkin is back, and engaging, in what is coming dangerously close to "the Alan Arkin role." He's their father, Joe, forever hatching get-poor-quick schemes.

Rose is a good mom. She understands her 7-year-old son, Oscar (Jason Spevack), who is not really troubled but simply high-spirited. I wonder how many little boys are accused of misbehaving simply because they are -- boys. Why does she still sleep with Mac, the faithless high-school quarterback (Steve Zahn) who seduced and abandoned her? She asks herself the same question.

It's Mac who tips her off on a possible business. He's a cop and notices that people get paid well for mopping up after gruesome murders. So is born Rose and Norah's Sunshine Cleaning, which will clean up the rugs and scrape the brains off the wall, etc. This job by its nature allows them to witness the aftermath of lives unexpectedly interrupted; an ID in a dead woman's purse leads them to make an awkward acquaintance.

This is promising material. Gene Siskel loved movies about what people actually do all day. There is even a documentary subject here. But not this film that compromises on everything it implies, because it wants to be cheerful about people who don't have much to be cheerful about. How can you make a feel-good movie about murder-scene clean-ups? "Life's a messy business," the poster says. Yes, and death is messier.

At times, the movie works, but those are the times it (and even we) forget what it's really about. If you could plot it on a curve, it might look like a cross-section of a roller coaster. The poster also evokes "Little Miss Sunshine," by the same producers, also with Arkin, and the presence of Adams evokes the sublime "Junebug." Those two movies had more consistent tones and although based on contrivance, felt more natural.

One element does work, and it's off to the side, apart from the rest of the plot. It involves Winston (Clifton Collins Jr.), a one-armed hardware store owner, who baby-sits Oscar in an emergency and provides an oasis of warmth and common sense. You may recall him as Perry in "Capote" (2005). An actor like this works a lot but doesn't always get ideal roles. Now he's beginning to emerge, with seven more films in post-production.

You won't have a bad time seeing this film. You may get a little frustrated waiting for it to take off. It keeps heading down different runways. There's a movie here somewhere. Not this one.

Popular Blog Posts

Why Can't Sad Be Fat?

A rebuttal to Joni Edelman's piece on "Inside Out."

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

If I Had an Emmy Ballot 2015

What should be nominated for Emmys this year? Let us guide the way.

Sex Symbol Without Auteur: The Strange Case of the Gina Lollobrigida Filmography

Three films starring Gina Lollobrigida have been released on Blu-ray; Glenn Kenny looks at them and her entire career.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus