Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

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Released 12-Oct-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Deleted Scenes-(12.20)
Theatrical Trailer-(2.22)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 87:34 (Case: 91)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Christine Jeffs
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Amy Adams
Emily Blunt
Alan Arkin
Jason Spevack
Steve Zahn
Mary Lynn Rajskub
Clifton Collins, Jr.
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Michael Penn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   The DVD cover for Sunshine Cleaning proudly states that the film comes from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine. The film was promoted in the same way for cinematic release hoping to ride on the coat-tails of that films' massive success. This is a blessing and a curse. On the upside it allows fans of the earlier film to see a film they might otherwise not have noticed. On the downside it invites close comparison between the two movies. For, enjoyable as it is, Sunshine Cleaning can't compete with the slice of indie perfection that was Little Miss Sunshine.

There are some obvious comparisons. Both deal with oddball families at the bottom of the financial ladder. Both have a quirky sense of humour meaning that the funny bits are tinged with pain and the painful bits are laced with humour. Also, both feature Alan Arkin as a cantankerous but ultimately "heart of gold" oldster.

Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) is a single mother living in the fading glow of former glory. A high school cheerleading star, who ensnared the heart of the captain of the football team Mac (Steve Zahn), she has found that, as the by-line says, life's a messy business. She and Mac never made it to the altar. He married the "ordinary girl" and started a family. Despite the marital bliss he finds time to meet with Rose on the side.

Things just haven't worked out for Rose. She is stuck in a dead-end cleaning job, with a layabout sister Norah (Emily Blunt), a son who keeps getting suspended from school for doing "odd things" and a dad (Alan Arkin) who is an unsuccessful salesman. All are somewhat lost without the guiding hand of a mother - she having died many years earlier.

A tip from Mac alerts Rose to the money that can be made in crime scene clean-up work. Desperate to make enough money to send her boy to a private school Rose gives it a go, roping in the unreliable Norah as her partner. For both women the job proves illuminating and fulfilling. Rose gets a buzz out of completing the cycle of life and having a successful business. Norah finds some photographs of a girl at a scene and traces the subject, Lynn (Mary Lynn Rajskub also from Little Miss Sunshine), stalking her and forming an odd relationship.

Rose also forms an odd relationship with the one-armed proprietor of the cleaning products store Winston (Clifton Collins Jr) who takes pity on her naivety and helps her in the trade.

Sunshine Cleaning differs from the other Sunshine movie in that it is essentially a family with comedy rather than a comedy with drama. Its strengths, not surprisingly are in the performances. Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are two actresses on, if not over, the cusp of greatness. For once Adams is not playing a character who is overly cute (she is always cute) and her dramatic moments are well handled and genuinely moving. The stink of failed expectations is stronger than the crime scenes she is cleaning particularly in the scenes where she tries to impress her old school "friends" who relish the chance to look down on the former cheerleader. Emily Blunt is a great actress who has played lots of supports. She is likeable and troublesome in equal measures and her scenes with Rajskub are tremendously involving. Zahn doesn't have a lot to do and the cranky Arkin strays too far on the side of dislikeable to maintain interest. Clifton Collins Jnr is a treat in the small role of Winston.

The film falls down in the script department. There are two many jarring notes and the indie spirit which infuses the movie results in too many plot threads left unsatisfied and the denouement seems tacked on. The scenes between the boy and Arkin just don't work. Kiwi director Jeffs (Rain / Sylvia) specializes in difficult relationships and the film works best when the cast are allowed free reign.

Sunshine Cleaning is best come to with minimal expectations and without comparisons. Left to stand on its own it will not disappoint.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Sunshine Cleaning was shot on 35mm film and projected at a 2.35:1 cinematic aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

The film was shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico which immediately sparks interest as the city has rarely been the setting for a feature film. The transfer captures the drab look of the bad side of town - the old houses, junky cars and cheap burger bars. Colours are pretty muted but the transfer appears stable and true. Flesh tones are accurate.

I noticed some compression issues in some of the darker scenes where the transfer struggled to convey inky blackness.

The film is clearly not one for showing off your new home theatre system.

There is minimal grain and the transfer itself is free of any artefacts or dirt.

There are no subtitles.

All in all a competent transfer of this unspectacular looking film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Sunshine Cleaning has an English Dolby Digital soundtrack running at 224 Kb/s.

The Region 1 version apparently has a 5.1 track. It is difficult to know whether the surround sound would have improved the sonic experience of the film. It is largely a chamber piece with little suggestion of ambient sound or work for a sub-woofer.

However, the expanded bit-rate may have improved the sound mix. This track sounded muddy and it was difficult to pick up some of the dialogue despite the fact that there are no thick accents on show. The clarity improved when my ears adjusted but frequently lines were muffled and missed.

The soundtrack is by performer Michael Penn. The score is subtle and unobtrusive. Also included are a mix of tracks from the indie and World Music side of the fence.

The dialogue appears to be in audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Sunshine Cleaning contains only a couple of extras.

Deleted Scenes

There are 8 deleted scenes included. They are in rough format and time-coded. Mostly they have snipped out unwelcome plot strands including a drunken fling between Rose and a rival clean-up man, some unnecessary footage of Arkin tossing his popcorn into a lake and an alternate scene of a crucial moment between Norah and Lynn (which begins with a more sexually overt tone).

A short but interesting collection.

Theatrical Trailer

A relatively long trailer which hints at just about every plot point and reveal. Don't watch until after seeing the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 1 version of this film has the following extras:

Normally I would have to say that any version which includes an audio commentary is to be preferred. However, the absence of the director and any major cast member seems a major omission.

Summary

    Sunshine Cleaning is a drama with enough levity to overcome the dark subject matter. Fans of Amy Adams or Emily Blunt will not be disappointed with the performances although there are elements of the film as a whole that just don't click. It probably just needed a bit more script tinkering.

Still, this shouldn't dissuade anyone from the purchase of a pretty good movie.

The transfer is true to the fairly humble origins of the film although I found the sound a little muddy. The extras are a bit too brief.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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