MOVIE REVIEW- Albe-quirky: Second <i>Sunshine's </i>sweet


Independent films are known for their quirks, some endearing and some annoying. Sunshine Cleaning has a surfeit of the former but enough of the latter to keep my enthusiasm in check.

Chief among its assets is the performance of Amy Adams. After appearing as an "Enchanted" nun in Doubt, she creates a completely different and far more multidimensional character here. On the downside, some scenes appear to have been thrown in just to let her show specific emotions or facets of her talent.

Adams plays Rose Lorkowski, a single mother whose seven-year-old son Oscar (Jason Spevack) is going to have to go to private school or start taking meds mandated by his public school. She can't afford the former but is opposed to the latter on principle.

We only see Oscar's good side, so it's hard to understand his problems, except that he may be getting overstimulated by his Aunt Norah (Emily Blunt), a frequent babysitter whose bedtime stories give him nightmares.

Rose is the more stable sister, going to real estate school while eking out a living cleaning houses. Norah, who lives with their father (Alan Arkin), can't even hold down a waitressing job.

On a less positive note, Rose has an ongoing affair with a married policeman, Mac (Steve Zahn). His suggestion leads to a new career path for the sisters: cleaning up crime scenes. "It's just like cleaning up a house but there's blood there." And it pays better.

After plunging in, they learn the fine points of their new profession from Winston (Clifton Collins Jr.), a one-armed man who makes model airplanes and runs a janitorial supplies store. (How he lost his arm is never discussed, but a scene where Norah goes "trestling" raises an intriguing possibility.)

Personal effects found at the scene of a "decomp" (you don't want to know!) lead Norah to track down the dead woman's daughter, Lynn (Mary Lynn Rajskub), a lonely lesbian who misinterprets Norah's interest in her.

The presence of Arkin, a kid and a van suggests some inspiration from Little Miss Sunshine (which had the same producers), even extending to the title. At its frequent best, Sunshine Cleaning may recall that film, but it has many more low points.

That it was filmed before the economic downturn made starting a small business next to impossible gives Sunshine Cleaning an air of instant nostalgia.