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Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

Directed by Christine Jeffs Written by Megan Holley

 What I liked about the special features on this film was that it showed two women who actually had the profession that the film refers to speaking on their depiction of their business and how accurate it turned out. Naturally a movie will dramatize a bit; at the start of their business they have no protective gear and simply throw everything in the dumpster to dispose of, when we all know (or should) that that’s a big no, no. Also noting that in fact at times they would have to sit and console with the family members who would later call and thank them for their professionalism and care. The movie starts out with a bang, literally. A man walks into a gun shop and asks for a shotgun and once handed, loads a single bullet and proceeds to blow his brains out.

We see Rose (Amy Adams) cleaning up a house. Simultaneously we see her sister Norah (Emily Blunt) barely waking for her day and once at work is fired after dropping a tray of food. Both sisters finding themselves stuck in an otherwise “mundane” existence that they’d both become tired of. Back at the gun store/crime scene we find Mac, (Steve Zahn) the officer in charge questioning the employees and getting what little information they had. Norah goes over later at night to babysit Rose’s son Oscar (Jason Spevack) while she went out to indulge in a little adultery. Hinting at a past, though not exactly revealing too many details and leaving much to the imagination with her and Mac’s relationship. In the midst of what seemed like a weekly routine for the two Mac later suggests perhaps switching from cleaning up houses to cleaning up crime scenes, discovering how profitable it actually was. Though Rose only heard his implied tone of only being able to clean up after others. While cleaning up another house, runs into an old friend from High School who was very pregnant and from the looks of her house, far better off than her former Cheerleading friend. Offered to attend her baby shower they exchange information while Rose feds her a white lie about her other endeavors at the moment. The last straw comes when Oscar gets in trouble, once again, for his current problem at school of licking whatever was in sight. Told he should be on medication or put in “special” classes, (those god damned administrators, right?) Rose gets a hold of Mac to obtain further information on how to get her “in” to the business.

For her first job she brings along her sister after trying to convince her of growing up and how it cold actually be beneficial for her. At their first job, Rose tries to act professional in front of those around but once alone is full of inexperience and a lack of materials. Meanwhile their father Joe (Alan Arkin) babysits Oscar and the two go out to try and sell Fancy Corn. As it seemed the grandfather was always coming up with crazy ideas of making money, though broken promises only emerged. Rose has yet another “date” with Mac who offers to pay for her to get a real estate license if it weren’t for the fact that the job was starting to grow on her. At another job Norah falls atop a mattress and takes some photos from inside that she feels connected to in some sense. The two then shopping at a store run by Winston, (Clifton Collins Jr.) to inquire as to what all would be needed. Given the guidelines and rules to the industry, conveying an obvious naïve manner about them. I suppose it didn’t help that one of the employees of the gun store had walked in complaining of having a terrible job done and unsure of whom they were with exactly. Before dropping her off, Norah asks if she wouldn’t mind watching Oscar while she attended “class” to which her sister responds with informing of Mac’s wife being pregnant once again and of how pathetic she was for involving herself with him. Throwing salt on the wound, she’s stood up and the next day offers to sign up for her certification class by Winston. Who she was also beginning to take a liking to. Things begin to look up when Rose has a run-in with Mac’s wife at a corner store who admits to knowing what had been going on. (Guess she’s just as stupid, go figure)

Norah all the while had been following the victim’s daughter of which she took the photos from, going as far to ask her out and divulging of her own past. How her own mother had killed herself when younger. Feeling a connection to this stranger who she thought could sympathize but instead had purposely had nothing to do with her mother who had been a raging alcoholic. With business going so well she’d soon meet an eminent and gradual demise on a rather important day for Rose. Believing her father would have no problem once again watching Oscar, she’s let down and reverted back to Winston who she asks for the huge favor of watching him to return “whenever I’m done.” She attends the baby shower to discover that she shouldn’t have even gone when her sister accidentally burns down a house she was forced to clean herself. How does one burn down a house while simply cleaning up blood you may ask? Well, by getting distracted by a purrty kitty and lighting candles that eventually catch to the curtains of course. Forced out of business and handed a debt of 40,000 in damages, Rose goes back to cleaning houses as her father insists on holding onto the business, having finally found something good at.

A break for the family coming with Oscar’s birthday party which Winston is invited to and though still mad at Norah for her frivolous behavior, accepts her apology and agrees to move on. Unaware of what to do next their father asks Rose if not minding if he stayed with her for a while but that it would only be temporary. His reason being that he had sold the house on account of having a business proposition come up that he knew would be successful and he would be working right under the boss. Have you figured it out yet? Yup, he fixed up the van and changed the name of the business. Fudging a bit of the finer details as she thanks him and they go off to clean their first house together. Norah finally going on a road trip that she had talked about for some time, taking along with, the kitty that help assist in arson.

Now, would you like to know what phrase I generally dislike hearing? I mean, there’s a lot I’ve always disliked hearing but that of pertaining to this review at least; that our High School days are some of the best days we may experience. I certainly hope that is not the case at least. Rose being the cheerleader back in her “hey day.” So what usually happens with the former cheerleader who can never obtain those again feelings of being “on top?”  Don’t they usually either marry rich or pop out some kids while their husband cheats on them for wondering why, whywhyMaybe that’s just what movies teach us. However, Sunshine Cleaning does tackle life after football games and pep rallies while putting on a certainly new twist. I didn’t mention the fact that Collins has one arm in the film because it’s not need to know per say. They slightly hint at him getting together with Rose but in the end never touch on it and his character is left somewhat open-ended. I rather enjoyed Blunt in this film and thought Adams played her role quite fittingly. A favorite character has to go to Arkin however who won my heart as the caring grandfather that encouraged his grandson to not listen to his teachers. Nothing was wrong with him and to go forth with the things he wanted out of life. Everything he did was in hopes of bettering his family and is usually a joy to watch onscreen. Overall an overwhelming independent feel resulting in a quaint tale about how you can lose everything and still push forward to get something out of nothing in the end.