Sunshine Cleaning | Eastern North Carolina Now

Wonderfully acted, with a story that matters about people that matter, as they struggle against the odds to survive with their dignity intact.

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In All Legal Endeavors There is Honor

   “Sunshine Cleaning,” the low budget drama about the human condition, is a robust success as a small film that showcases the best within beaten down people, who struggle to clench a measure of dignity, as they grasp for a crumb from the table of the American Dream. This thoughtful, well paced and wonderfully acted film told a real story of regular people, by giving the audience a glimpse into their work lives, as it peeled back the layers of the fragile psyches of these two very different sisters.

   As different as these two sisters were, they were similar in the one immutable fact; they have a past. It is a past of sorrow and a past of struggle, in Director Christine Jeffs’ and Writer Megan Holley’s story of these two sisters that join their dissimilar personalities and levels of ambition to build a business, Sunshine Cleaners, on the cleaning of structures, where people die violently, or alone and undiscovered.

    This subject matter was previously broached in the film “Cleaner,” featuring Samuel L. Jackson in the titular role, as a former police investigator that is involved in some intrigue, as he cleans places of similar deaths as in “Sunshine Cleaning.” That cleanup is where all similarities begins and ends between the two films.

    “Sunshine Cleaning” exposes the gritty reality of dealing with the messy cleanup of these horrific deaths, and the mess that it leaves in the lives of the survivors. One scene, in particular, reveals a sympathetic Rose Lorkowski, played by one of my favorite actresses, newcomer Amy Adams, sitting with the spouse of a suicide victim until her son-in-law comes to take her to a less stressful location. That simple act of her sitting, and holding the hand of this stranger, this sympathetic elderly lady, was so emblematic of Rose’s character. Actress Amy Adams is so reminiscent of a female version of Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck, exhibiting an integral component of the actress’ persona, that is so inherently decent, that it translates the essence of pure sympathy / empathy to the audience for her characters. This is the primary ingredient that makes this fine little film, at 91 minutes of runtime, work so well.

    Similarly, Rose’s sister Norah, played by Emily Blunt, is perfectly cast (both actresses resemble each other enough to be sisters) as the somewhat uncommon sister to Rose - perfect sister bookends for the Lorkowski family. Emily Blunt is the blunt talking, wild seed sister, with a tender heart and perfectly understood by their eccentric father, Joe Lorkowski, played by the enigmatic Alan Arkin. Seeing the two sisters together with the fatherly, but peculiar Joe, one can sense that this family, while financially poor and most unusual, are a family loosely knit together, where the bonds appear to tighten, in increments, as their plight worsens.

    Toss into this chaotic mix; both sisters, who desperately need money, are breaking into the lucrative "messy death," as biohazard, cleanup business, and the film increasingly becomes a compelling story. As in all stories regarding the “human condition,” there is a certain amount of effortless humor that transcends the plethora of tragedy that encircles the sisters’ business, and the family’s financial misfortunes.

    Rose, who was a hugely popular lead cheerleader in high school, explains her sorry predicament, at a critical juncture within the film, to her, one armed, cleaning products distributor, Winston, played by Clifton Collins, Jr.

    Rose: “There’s not a lot that I’m good at. I’m good at getting guys to want me, not date me or marry me, but want me. I am good at that. (continuing to sniffle as if trying to hold back her tears.) And cheering. I was really good at cheering.”

    Winston: “Cheering’s good.”

    Rose: “Yeah, but it’s not as marketable as you might think.”

    Way before this point in the film, I am so sympathetic toward Rose’s plight, and also, I just like her. I’m so deep in her camp, I have this paternal instinct to protect her, especially when she attends a baby shower, in an affluent neighborhood, held in honor of one of her former cheering leading peers. Knowing how cruel women can sometimes be to each other, I probably over-thought the situation, thinking that Rose’s poorer trappings would prejudice the more privileged young women. I was wrong. They did not understand Rose, but not for the reason of her poor financial status. Her former girl friends were perplexed, because Rose had grown into a much more purposeful human being than they had become, and therefore, they couldn't possibly understand her.

    An example of this is her explanation of her new avocation to the young women attending the baby shower.

    Woman at the shower: “And what is that exactly, a biohazard removal, whatever?”

    Rose: “A lot of times when people die, it can be kind of messy - you know - so, what we do is we go in and clean up the mess, and make sure everything is clean and sanitary.” (the young women are looking at Rose in dazed and confused expressions.)

    Rose: (continues, with Rose speaking quickly) “Because people don’t understand the safety risks involved with the removal of blood and body fluid.”

    Same woman at the shower: “I cannot imagine. You like doing that?”

    Rose: “Yeah, I do. We come into people’s lives, when they have experienced something profound and sad, and they’ve lost somebody - you know - and, the circumstances are always different, but that’s the same ... and we help.”

    Rose: (continues by reiterating, with the young women looking somewhat uncomfortable, or just really confused) “In some small way, we help.” (And then she smiles so sweetly, so sincere.)

    Now that’s what this film means to me. I love living in a world where people like Rose matter. I love living in a world where confused, but caring, people like Norah make a difference in

    When Oscar asks what a bastard is, since he was called one, Norah explains to the boy, “In a couple of years, you’ll find that being a bastard is like a free pass to cool. You’ll probably start a rock band; named Bastard Son. Chicks will really dig you. Yeah, that whole bastard thing is really working for you.”

    The film is a bittersweet examination of the “human condition” in a flawed, but loving family of people who have had more than their share of hardship, but find resiliency a fine option to capitulation. These people are not victims of hard luck, they are survivors, who find perseverance a better future than perpetual sorrow.

    Rated R. Released on DVD August 25, 2009.

    This Article provided courtesy of our sister site: Better Angels Now.

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( September 23rd, 2009 @ 11:47 am )
I appreciate the comments guys. I hope you enjoy this film as much as my wife and I did.

Ever since Stan, our publisher, gave me this job, I have really had to wade through some pretty mediocre movies to find little gems like "Sunshine Cleaning." Thankfully these publications have traffic.
( September 23rd, 2009 @ 9:39 am )
Definitely looking forward to this one too.
( September 22nd, 2009 @ 10:24 pm )
I've been wanting to see this movie and now I will for sure, Thank You!!

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