As we near the halfway point of summer (cue gasps and self-contained sobs), I thought it suitable to revisit this endearing sisterhood story, starring Amy Adams before she became Lois Lane and Emily Blunt before she took on Mary Poppins. Before these two incredibly talented actresses rose to megastar status, they were cleaning up crime scenes in arid Albuquerque, New Mexico during the summer of 2008…
Sunshine Cleaning (2008) ***1/2
Two likable numbskull sisters, Rose (Amy Adams right before her nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Doubt) and Norah (Emily Blunt two years after she made her presence known in The Devil Wears Prada), are down and out broke, so when there’s a job opportunity to scrub away the aftermath of murders and suicides, they have no choice but to grab the sponges and nose plugs. Rose is insecure, still comparing herself to more successful high school alumni and continuing a pathetic affair with the ex-football stud, Mac (Steve Zahn). Her dead-end life is accompanied by overly lax Norah, who babysits her son after he is expelled from school.
There is a bittersweet comedy in this mess, believe it or not. Much like Little Miss Sunshine (2006), these imperfect characters are embraceable and forgivable, sincerely aiming to improve their lives despite the blood stained pants and lingering maggots. They laugh at their mistakes, hold one another, and try to be reliable again.
On a more serious note, the movie deals with the sisters’ struggle with their mom’s suicide during their childhood as flashback sequences correlate with their cleaning in the present time. Alongside, Norah makes a vow to track down the daughter of a dead woman whose house she sanitized.
Yes, this self-seeking redemption formula is a familiar one, but Adams and Blunt have the charisma to pull off a duet character study that is just as fascinating as watching them work their odd career. If there’s a sisterhood theme you’re looking for, this is the perfect pic!
Sunshine Cleaning humors as much as it hurts. It teaches as much as lets you make a judgment, but when there’s nothing to do but mop up dried-up blood for a turnaround in life, there’s really no room to judge.
Available on Amazon Prime