Wide Release: 3/20/09
THE STORY: Rose (Amy Adams) and Norah (Emily Blunt) are down on their luck sisters. In High School, Rose had it all: head cheerleader, the quarterback, the admiration of the town. Now, Rose is a maid barely making it as a single parent. Norah is the family black sheep, she still lives with dad (Alan Arkin), she just can’t seem to keep a job or keep her life together. When a family issue comes up that Rose needs to cover financially, her cop boyfriend (Steve Zahn) suggests she start cleaning crime scenes after seeing the usual guy accept his $3,000 check.
Just after her 3rd Oscar nomination for playing yet another naïve innocent, Amy Adams finally goes somewhere a little deeper and darker. Personally, I’m glad to see her branch out, though Rose strays only a small bit from that. The story progresses as Rose learns after-the-fact about what she is and isn’t doing right as a crime-scene cleaner with the help of Winston (Clifton Collins, Jr.) the one-armed vacuum shop salesman. It makes sense though, if you started a business with no idea how to run a business would you really do everything correctly from the beginning? Hell, no. Amy Adams is so charming, just a light bulb of energy in a dark situation, and she’s us. She has the same problems we do: no money, dead-end job that you hate, family problems that she has no control over, etc.
Therein lies the problem to Sunshine Cleaning’s lack of commercial success. In this economy, when everyone is needing to pare back, choose their entertainment wisely, why spend $10 on a movie ticket that is only going to remind you of how much of your own life is in the toilet. I’m here to tell you, Sunshine Cleaning does not give you a happy ending. Uplifting, maybe; happy, not so much. You might like this movie, I did, but it did leave me feeling a little down.
Like Amy Adams, Emily Blunt plays the opposite of what we’ve seen her, but not too far away. Still a bit scattered, but due to a lack of direction, not because of stress. All emotion, she has trouble disengaging from the job. She worries about the family of those injured at the crime scenes. She might be you, your sister, or your best friend: the person in your life who unintentionally self-sabotages and has no luck. Again, do you want to be reminded of this on your rare treat out of the house? Maybe you don’t want to, but the Norahs of the world are often forgotten, and seeing her story play out might give you that bump to call up the friend who needs a babysitter, a night out, or a home-cooked meal.
While I wouldn’t recommend Sunshine Cleaning to everybody, I think it’s worth seeing if you want to sit and talk with friends about where your lives sit right now. It’s a story for what we’re all going through right now, and opens it up for discussion. Maybe you’re a Rose, maybe you’re a Norah (or maybe you’re their dad), but everyone needs to vent and commiserate every now and again.
WHAT IT’S WORTH: Depends on your mood. I think it’s worth a rental, but not full price. See it at the cheapy theater. So I’ll say $4 (that’s rental price near me anyway). It won’t change your life, but it might re-open your eyes for a little while. I will warn you, the opening scene is a bit rough to watch (set up for the first crime scene). There is only one severed body part, but a good bit of blood (and human waste), so not for the squeamish.