Home > Reviews > SUNSHINE CLEANING – Michael Penn


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A very unusual comedy-drama, Sunshine Cleaning stars Amy Adams as Rose Lorkowski, a down-on-her-luck single mom who, in order to raise the tuition funds to send her young son to private school, starts an unusual business – a biohazard removal/crime scene clean-up service. With her flaky sister Norah (Emily Blunt) in tow, the newly-named Sunshine Cleaning crew quickly find themselves up to their elbows in all manner of messy situations. The film was directed by Christine Jeffs and features an original score by Michael Penn, the musically-inclined older brother of Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn.

Penn’s music is primarily band-based, with guitars, keyboards, drums, a small string section, and doo-dah vocals performing the majority of the score. It’s contemporary, and pretty funky in places, occasionally rising to unexpected heights (such as in the “The Chalk Thing” or “Trestling”), adopting lively country rhythms (“Shrimp Truck”, “Trailer Park”), becoming quite abstract and unusual through the use of sampled effects (“Mrs. Davis”), or bringing a warmer and more sentimental tone through the use of an accordion or an acoustic guitar (“Bloody Bathroom”).

The wordless vocal work is occasionally reminiscent of something Simon & Garfunkel or The Beach Boys might use as a backing track or an intro to one of their songs; in fact, that’s pretty much the best way to describe Penn’s score: a 27-minute long intro to a song which never starts. It’s an easy listening album for the soundtrack set, a set of rock and jazz instrumentals which happen to accompany a film; it’s not a traditional film score in any sense of the word, as there are no recurring thematic motifs and it has no formal structure, but it nevertheless makes for an enjoyable and understated 40-minutes of listening when you want a break from orchestral histrionics. Even the songs are pretty good, especially Norman Greenbaum’s classic “Spirit in the Sky”, which never gets old.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • Cure for This (performed by Golden Smog) (3:38)
  • The Chalk Thing (1:33)
  • Shrimp Truck (1:32)
  • Bloody Bathroom (1:31)
  • Joe and Oscar (0:40)
  • Trestling (2:45)
  • Perfect Days (performed by Ken Andrews) (4:43)
  • To the East (performed by Electrelane) (4:53)
  • Rose and Mac (2:21)
  • Barcelona (performed by Bodega) (3:03)
  • Some Ice Cream (1:36)
  • Nora Follows Lynn Shower (2:10)
  • Mrs. Davis (2:17)
  • Fanny Pack (0:43)
  • Intro (Stay Here) (performed by Emile Millar) (3:01)
  • Fire (1:36)
  • Winston’s Store (0:24)
  • Open for Business (performed by David Maizlin) (1:09)
  • Trailer Park (1:47)
  • Arriving at Fire (1:45)
  • CB Radio and Resolve (3:47)
  • Spirit in the Sky (performed by Norman Greenbaum) (4:01)
  • Introduction (0:51)

Running Time: 51 minutes 46 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS 34071 (2009)

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