More 'Sunshine' at Sundance festival


Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 4:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 4:13 p.m.

PARK CITY, Utah - There's more "Sunshine" at Sundance.

Emily Blunt
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Emily Blunt

Actress Emily Blunt poses on the press line at the premiere of "Sunshine Cleaning" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Dan Steinberg/The Associated Press

Two years after "Little Miss Sunshine" stormed out of the film festival to earn nearly $60 million and two Oscars, another comedic drama seems to be trying to follow in its footsteps.

Like its predecessor, "Sunshine Cleaning" revolves around a quirky family with communication problems, stars Alan Arkin as a grandpa encouraging a cute kid to succeed and features a sun-drenched Albuquerque, N.M. setting.

A broken-down car gets stuck on the roadside in one key scene, calling to mind the problematic VW bus of "Little Miss Sunshine." In both films, an abundance of perky music propels the narrative.

Noting the loud buzz around "Sunshine Cleaning," festival director Geoffrey Gilmore cautioned the premiere-night audience, "This isn't the other 'Sunshine.'"

Despite eminently likable stars Emily Blunt and Amy Adams, "Sunshine Cleaning" is much darker than the 2006 movie. At the premiere, audiences laughed for about the first 20 minutes, settled in for downward-spiraling drama that took up the majority of the movie, then laughed again in the last few minutes.

Adams plays a struggling mother who starts a crime-scene cleanup business with her flaky sister (Blunt) in order to raise money to send her mischievous son (wide-eyed 11-year-old Canadian actor Jason Spevack) to private school.

On Friday night, neither co-star Steve Zahn, Adams nor Arkin showed up for the traditional post-premiere audience question-and-answer session. Blunt, the British actress known for her role in "A Devil Wears Prada," apologized and said Adams was on-set for another movie.

Blunt met Adams when both were filming "Charlie Wilson's War" and they cooked each other dinner while filming "Sunshine Cleaning."

"We just got on very well, very quickly and she still feels like my sister now," Blunt said.

Among those in the audience: Sundance jury member Quentin Tarantino, whose "Pulp Fiction" featured Harvey Keitel as a mob-connected crime scene cleaner. Screenwriter Megan Holley told the audience she was inspired not by that movie but by a report on NPR several years ago detailing the intimacy cleaners develop with the dead.

"I thought this would really be an amazing backdrop for a film," Holley said.

"Sunshine Cleaning," directed by New Zealander Christine Jeffs, is expected to be sold to a distributor at the festival, but almost certainly won't attract the hefty $10 million price that "Little Miss" did two years ago.

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