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Sunshine Cleaning

2009-06-11 16:10

What it's about:

When the bloody, gory details of life get too much to deal with, you're most likely on your own with nobody to rely on. Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) is having a shitty time of it. She's a single mother working as a maid, sleeping with a married man, and trying to keep her dysfunctional family in one piece. When her lover Mac (Steve Zahn) suggests she try her hand at cleaning crime scenes to make more money, she and sister Norah (Emily Blunt) embark on the weirdest journey of their lives to discover that they really are winners.

What we thought of it:

Crime scene clean-ups are no laughing matter. Yet seeing Emily Blunt fall face first into a nasty, blood-stained mattress is damn funny! This sort-of dark comedy, sort-of family drama, and sort-of documentary delving into the logistics of bio-hazardous material removal is as normal as it is weird. You've heard the story before – Erin Brockovich meets Little Miss Sunshine with a dash of Rachel Getting Married thrown in for good measure. But the end result is so much more than the sum of its parts. An ordinary tale with an extraordinary backdrop makes for something exciting that kind of feels like home.

As a teenager, Rose was once the captain of the cheerleading squad, dating the school jock and life was just dandy. Now she's a single mother with a crappy job and a deadbeat younger sister. Well, one way to make yourself feel better is to see how much worse other people have had it. Go on, admit it. It's human nature to feel better knowing you're not at the bottom of the pile. That's why someone like Rose could handle cleaning up blood and gore at crime and death scenes.
Norah (Emily Blunt), on the dangling, corpsy other hand, couldn't care less that her life consists of nothing but drugs, sleep and a little box of her dead mother's belongings. She epitomises teenage angst (although she's ceased being one for years) and you can't help but feel sorry for Little Miss Misfit.

Adams and Blunt have a magnetic rapport on screen as sisters, and this intense relationship is cradled by a loveable supporting cast. Alan Arkin reprises his role as a corrupting grandfather (Little Miss Sunshine ) as salesman Joe Lorkowski. In one scene he ropes his gullible grandson Oscar (Jason Spevack) into sealing a deal with a potential buyer, and it becomes evident that he cares deeply for his family, despite the unorthodox ways in which he educates Oscar. Steve Zahn plays completely out of his simple, redneck typecast as Mac, the yellow-bellied police officer who Rose is sleeping with. Clifton Collins Jr is outstanding as the nothing-gets-me-down, one-armed Winston. Maybe a one-armed man who builds model airplanes is taking the DIY metaphor a bit too far, but hey, Winston would be just as loveable with two arms.

Expect a few bloody scenes, but just like Rose, we mostly only see the positive side of her business: the classes she attends to become accredited, the purchasing of equipment and the pretty yellow sticker on the side of her van. This is not a movie about crime scene clean-ups; it's about cleaning up the messes in your life. 

While there are a few plot holes and one too many clichés, they are easily forgiven as it's impossible not to fall in love with this family. It's so cute you'll be wishing for a little more melodrama at next Sunday's family lunch.

Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are bloody funny in this quirky, dark comedy about grief, gore, and going it alone.

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