Let the Sun Shine In

sunshine-cleaningAmy Adams continues to dazzle in small, dignified movies, as she did in the indie features Junebug (2005) and again last year in Doubt (2008). Her characters barely registered with the masses, but certainly did with the critics and her peers. Add her latest character Rose Lorkowski in the delightful Sunshine Cleaning, which ranks up there with both of the above-mentioned Oscar-nominated performances.

Everyone is a little quirky in this quirky little film that borrows not only the producers, but part of the title, a beat-up old van, and everyone's current favorite grandpa, Alan Arkin, from their last quirky indie hit -- Little Miss Sunshine. (Could this be the latest marketing trend utilized by filmmakers to attract brain-dead consumers? Reuse bits of title to connect the movie dots. Could Don't Forget Your Little Sunshine Pills be next?)

Ms. Adams does naive really, really well. Wears it on her sleeve like heaven. This time Miss Naivety, a former high school cheerleading captain, who as a single mom and maid opens up a crime scene cleaning biz with her slacker sister. She tries real hard to do right by everyone, yet in doing so she neglects her own well-being. Messiah complex? Perhaps.

But everyone around her is either loopy or goofy or sometimes both: her well-meaning but married police detective boyfriend Mac (Steve Zahn), her goofy but precocious son Oscar (Jason Spevack), her goofball father Joe (Alan Arkin), and her goofier sister Norah (Emily Blunt). (FYI, both Amy and Emily appeared in the most excellent Charlie Wilson's War.) Everyone around her needs her strength and resolve to keep them hurtling forward in their dulled lives. Only problem is, on whom can she lean when things get tough? Especially since they're all one big happy but economically challenged lower-middle-class family struggling to make ends meet in Albuquerque, NM.

About the only grounded character is the one-armed but charismatic Winston (Clifton Collins Jr.), owner of the local cleaning supply company. He's quirky, too, but endearingly charming. When not suggesting the correct cleaning supplies or building model airplanes with her son, he offers Rose a strong shoulder to lean on, especially when all looks lost after her sis clumsily burns down one of the homes that an insurance company hires them to get spic and span.

The one faux pas is the feel-good ending with Norman Greebaum's overused "Spirit in the Sky." It's doubtful a French director would have succumbed to these sentiments. But overall, this is a picture deserving of a much larger audience. Either way, Ms. Adams has arrived. - Dusty Wright

Doubt

dusty5a

Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs, and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.

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