Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are two of the best actresses of their generation. Both in their 30s, they have starred in great films like The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria, Looper, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (all Emily Blunt), Doubt, The Fighter, The Master, and Junebug (all Amy Adams) over the course of their relatively short careers. Both women have shown that they are actresses who are equally capable in comedy or drama. Putting them together in a film seems like a no brainer and after seeing this film you’ll wonder why it wasn’t done earlier.
A single mom with some money and men issues, Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) desperately needed to make some money quickly as she wants to send her young son (Jason Spevack – The Stone Angel, Fever Pitch) a better school after he is kicked out of the one he is at. Her present job is working as a housecleaner obviously won’t do the trick. The idea and opportunity to start a crime scene cleanup business comes to Rose via the married police officer named Mac (Steve Zahn – The Great Buck Howard, You’ve Got Mail) she is sleeping with. Rose takes the idea and runs with it.
Along with her slacker sister Norah (Emily Blunt), Rose starts up Sunshine Cleaning. The two amateurs finds themselves submerged in a much more difficult job than they could have imagined. Besides having to develop the stomach for cleaning up the sites of suicides, murders and deaths they have to learn a whole bunch of regulations involved in the clean-up and disposal of death sites. Despite all the challenges Rose and Norah do well for themselves and start making some good money. Rose even begins to see that this is what she was meant to do and she is good at it.
For the first time in a very long time Rose starts to feel good about herself and what she does. So much so that she breaks up with Mac and attends a baby shower attended by all her high school mates. She goes to that baby shower instead of working on a job with Norah. Norah, who has really started to bond with the dead, gets distracted and the house she is working at catches on fire. Just like that all that Rose had built up had literally gone up in smoke and she finds herself without a job and owing $40,000 in damages. More importantly, the relationship between the sisters seems irreparably damaged.
With its intelligently funny moments combined with the heartfelt dramatic ones Sunshine Cleaning is the little film that could. In its essence it is just about the human experience.
What I liked most about the film was its realism. None of it feels like it was done with the aim of winning an Oscar, rather it is just an attempt to tell a story of a family in a particular moment of time. You don’t get distracted by any over-the-top stuff. Its minimalist approach allows you to just focus on the story. Each and every aspect of it seemed plausible and that adds to the enjoyment of it. The family is interesting, but not too quirky and the dialogue is not too smart or perfect. As the film progresses you get the feeling like you really know these characters. It is so well written and acted that you end up feeling like a fly on the wall just observing everything that is going on.
Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are the types of actresses who could make watching them watching paint dry interesting. They are that good and part of their appeal is that they are very real. Part of the realism of their characters has to be attributed to them. They don’t make them too indie quirky. Rather they ground them and flesh them out. Your heart breaks for them in different ways. Amy Adams playing the former head cheerleader who is now a single mom and spends each morning staring into the mirror chanting cheesy self-affirmation lines and Blunt playing the flake who is at the same time cool and tough, but also vulnerable.
Many out there have not seen this film as it is a smaller one that slipped between the cracks and that is a shame. Correct the error of your ways immediately!
-Sunshine Cleaning: A Fresh Look at a Dirty Business
-Also on Blu-ray Disc