Article by: Coop Cooper
A.K.A. The Small Town Critic
It’s easy to miss even the best independent gems in the theater or on DVD. Here are are a two available for rental that I recommend taking a chance on…
“Sunshine Cleaning” (2008): A down-on-her-luck single mother, Rose (Amy Adams), gets the idea from her married cop boyfriend (Steve Zahn) to start up a potentially lucrative crime scene cleanup service. She impulsively talks her ne’re-do-well sister, Norah (Emily Blunt), into joining her but the two soon find themselves out of their depth as they find they have a lot to learn about the legalities and etiquette of the business. While Rose strikes up a friendship with a kindly, disabled janitorial supply shop owner (Clifton Collins Jr.), Norah begins a relationship with the a daughter (Mary Lynn Rajskub) of one of their dead clients. Meanwhile, their huckster father (Alan Arkin) teaches the finer points of shady salesmanship to Rose’s troubled grade-school aged son (Jason Spevack).
I’ve heard others refer to this film as a “dark comedy” but that would suggest that it’s some sort of a mean-spirited satire. It’s more of a dramedy with some quirky, yet slightly morbid subject matter. There are plenty of comedic moments, such as when they start making money and suddenly become excited by the possibility of cleaning up a high-profile messy death. The laughs are eventually overshadowed by drama as the characters become intwined with the lives of their clients, which in turn remind them of their own family tragedies. The characters seem to hit rock-bottom often and it is both uplifting to see them succeed and difficult to watch them fail.
I believe the film might have been marketed poorly since the film isn’t about two silly, klutzy sisters trying to make a buck slipping and sliding in gore as the trailer suggests. It’s actually about dealing with loss, picking yourself up when you fall and finding your niche in life.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (2011): A rich oil sheik (Amr Waked) with a passion for fly fishing hires a fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor) to figure out a way to bring salmon to a river in the sheik’s country. While on the job, the expert meets an investment consultant (Emily Blunt) who helps him see that the venture is not only possible, it could enrich the culture of the indigenous people. Meanwhile, a press secretary for the British Prime Minister (Kristin Scott Thomas) schemes to turn the entire situation into a potentially destructive public relations spin.
This is a refreshing and positive story that takes place in a region which is almost always characterized by violence and war. “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” steps away from that subject to tell an story about dreamers and their desire to do the impossible. At first I was unimpressed with the sheik’s idea, thinking it was potentially a terrible waste of money for a spoiled, overenthusiastic sportsman. However, he later reveals the altruistic reasons behind the project, making its completion emotionally satisfying for the viewer.
As in “Sunshine Cleaning,” all of the performances are excellent and are a testament to how independent films can be just as (if not even more) satisfying than their Hollywood counterparts. “Salmon Fishing” is an amusing, good-hearted drama that will make the viewer wish this had been a true story, even though it is not actually based on one.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5