Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
May 23, 2013
**1/2 (out of four)
In an indie film about a single mom struggling to make ends meet, you can pretty much assume that at some point she'll lose money and spend time in a strip club. It's just par for the course.
“About Sunny,” however, discovers revealing ambiguities in typical material. Divorced Vegas mom Angela (Lauren Ambrose of “Six Feet Under”) says she gets drinks at a strip club just because it's near her house, but it seems like she's there to reassure herself that, having not given in to dancing, she still has exerted a measure of choice in her life. It's a small victory--with her daughter Sunny (Audrey P. Scott) about to turn 8 and displaying possible signs of a learning disability, Angela faces daily challenges of the simplest kind at best: How to earn money, what to eat, how to find time for her daughter and for herself.
Ambrose earned a best actress Independent Spirit Award nomination for “About Sunny,” a film that exists primarily for an underused actress to bite into a substantial part. She's strong, even if Angela's sense of responsibility comes and goes in ways that aren't always comprehensible. Writer-director Bryan Wizemann takes his time, which is a nice way of saying that the film is a slow wade through not-exactly-fresh waters.
What redeems “About Sunny” is the little painful moments that chip away at Angela's pride and stability. Her boss casually notes, “That is quite a little blouse you've got there,” and, very much needing the job, Angela feels she has no recourse for the inappropriate comment. Sunny innocently asks if they can order pizza, oblivious to the financial strain put on by every meal. Having recently gone out for a special breakfast during which she had to confirm that coffee was included, Angela tries to hold it together for her daughter while denying her the pizza. “Do you want some soup?” she asks, looking in the cabinet. Hey, she's trying, and trying not to accept that it might not be enough.
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