Now in her 30s and still a single parent, Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) is deeply unsatisfied with her place in life. Working as a full-time cleaner and still sleeping with her (now married) ex-boyfriend Mac (Steve Zahn), Rose’s son Oscar now requires private school and she has no idea just how she can afford it. Mac eventually suggests that she and sister Norah (Emily Blunt) go into crime scene cleaning, a lucrative but often unpleasant business, spurring on their own development as people as well as entrepreneurs.
Positioning itself as another offbeat independent film, comedy and drama are deftly balanced presenting a unified and often polished production. Moments of profound beauty are punctuated by a lightness of tone, never overstepping the mark in terms of direction but similarly never truly commanding the screen. However the extent of the dramatic elements can lend themselves to self-pity or even too slow in their development, leading to long periods where little happens.
Such a issue could quickly be admonished by Adams, a woman with an innate ability to emote using the simplest of facial expressions or tweaking of the eyes yet even this is never utilized fully. Whereas other movies focus on a close-up to convey a higher degree of intensity, both Adams and Blunt must work extra hard to inject significant depth into the characters, sparse in their writing due to the predominance of standard and wide-angle shots.
After a successful turn in such pieces, Alan Arkin (playing their father Joe) has decided to continue on the same vein, a decision which is far from successful here. He is reduced to a muttering and often belligerent character, relegated to the fringes of the story. Within the framework of the piece as a whole, he is structural, presenting himself as a babysitter or even providing a quick dissolution to the plot where necessary.
This same ending, thoroughly unsatisfying in its lazy presentation and unfolding, falls short of a worthwhile and meaningful conclusion meaning there is no real catharsis for the characters. Blunt’s Norah suffers most due to this fact, the writer and director evidently unsure of how to utilize her without deeper and more involved probing.
Thus by skirting the content, leaving it up to the leads but not giving them the full support they need, Sunshine Cleaning is incomplete from a unified perspective. Despite being an entertaining diversion, it concerns itself with being innocuous rather than innovation.