Bidding to repeat the success of Little Miss Sunshine, quirky comedy drama Sunshine Cleaning sticks closely to the formula that made its predecessor a breakout indie hit and a surprise double-Oscar winner at the 2007 Academy Awards.
It shares the same producers (who probably insisted on the word ‘Sunshine’ in the title) and an Albuquerque, New Mexico setting, as well as audience acclaim at Sundance and a role for Alan Arkin as a faintly disreputable grandfather. Above all, the new movie boasts a similarly winsome storyline about a kookily dysfunctional family trying to dig its way out of a financial hole by unconventional means.
Little Miss Sunshine’s misfits had a kids’ beauty pageant in California as their goal. By contrast, Sunshine Cleaning’s underachieving sisters go into the crime scene clean-up business to make some cash.
After Amy Adams’s single mom Rose and her moody slacker of a sister, Emily Blunt’s Norah, hit upon this scheme they soon find themselves scrubbing blood off the floors and brain matter off the walls. It’s a messy business, and the source of some pitch-black gags and a few gross-out moments that will get the more squeamish squirming, but by cleaning up the tragic mess in other people’s lives, the duo manage to get some order into their own.
If you adored Little Miss Sunshine, Sunshine Cleaning will probably charm you too – but only if you have a taste for movies whose dark and bittersweet coating hides a slightly gooey, feel-good soft centre.