A Not So Sunny Outlook

No need for me to write much about Sunshine Cleaning, as A.O. Scott has already said just about all that needs to be said:

A better title for the movie I am supposed to review — for the record, it’s “Sunshine Cleaning,”directed by Christine Jeffs from a script by Megan Holley — would be “Sundance Recycling,” since the picture is less a free-standing independent film than a scrap-metal robot built after a shopping spree at the Park City Indie Parts and Salvage Warehouse.

I don’t just mean that aspects of the setting, characters and plot seem awfully familiar (and, in a few cases, familiarly awful). The deeper problem is an overall confusion of tone, mood and genre, a breathless incoherence that comes from the effort to jam too many disparate elements together. In one scene you think you’re in a gritty little regional-realist drama, which gives way to a quirky comedy about adorable eccentrics and then swerves abruptly through psychological melodrama on its way to a cheery, tidy ending.

If, from one of these stuck-together moments to the next, “Sunshine Cleaning” sometimes seems better than it is, that is largely because Ms. Jeffs (“Rain,” “Sylvia”) has a good touch with actors and a very good cast. Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, playing sisters who go into business together, attack their roles with vivacity and dedication, even if the roles themselves don’t entirely make sense.

I’m mystified by the large number of generally positive reviews. There are subplots that go absolutely nowhere, others that arc well enough but don’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the movie, and full act (the second) that leaves one of the putative leads, Emily Blunt, with absolutely nothing to do. Blunt and Adams are thoroughly charming, but I have to wonder why both women, who appear to be smart and discerning, agreed to such a poorly conceived film. Barring severe editing that I’m not aware of, the problems are almost entirely with the script, and should’ve been evident from the beginning. So what then? Indie cred? Maybe, but that doesn’t help if the movie’s a botch.