Written by Megan Holley
Directed by Christine Jeffs
Starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Steve Zahn, Clifton Collins Jr. and Alan Arkin
When some lonely soul walks into a sporting goods store and blows his brains out all over the ceiling with a 20-gage shotgun from behind the counter, someone has got to come in and clean up that mess. Not only would it deter potential shoppers to find leftover bits of brain mass mixed in with the fishing poles but, more importantly, the violence that ripped through the fabric of everyday life needs to be cleaned from memory in order to return to our blissful existences. Enter Rose and Norah Lorkowski (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt), two sisters who reasonably could be a few steps away from the same fate as the man with the shotgun if they got to seriously thinking about their lives. Despite their troubles, the two have paired up to clean up the messes no one else wants to touch. What they lack in style, they make up with smiles as the two try to find life by facing death head on in SUNSHINE CLEANING.
The people who brought you LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE have brought you back to Albuquerque, New Mexico. They also tried to bring back that signature quirk you enjoyed so much last time, even going so far as to cast Alan Arkin in the role of a loud, unconventional grandfather. While they may not have succeeded in recreating that same kind of wide satisfaction, they have crafted a sensitive film that will definitely speak to the millions struggling in America today to forge their own path and bring some semblance of meaning to their lives. When we meet Rose, she is cleaning people’s houses just so she can afford her dilapidated little house. Her sister Norah can’t even be bothered to get out of bed to show up for her pointless waitress job. These are not girls with hope but they find very quickly that hope can come back into your life faster than you would expect and even when after you’ve given up on it.
As far as sisters go, Adams and Blunt are a pretty believable pair. You can tell they care about each other but you know that they also infuriate each other too. Adams’ mousy and unobtrusive demeanor gives Rose, a former prom queen whose popularity has been waning ever since, the delicate balance of hope and resigned defeat necessary to make her sympathetic and likable. You just know that when she exits the shower to repeat the affirmations written on a post-it stuck to her foggy mirror that she only half believes what she’s saying, if that. Blunt on the other hand is not looking for anyone’s acceptance, not even her own. She makes good on her own name and delivers Norah with a direct frankness that reveals more than she realizes. For Norah, hope is not something she tries to force into her life; no, hope for Norah, just finds her and sneaks its own way into her consciousness.
SUNSHINE CLEANING definitely brings the sunshine in but it does so in such a downtrodden fashion that it makes it all the more meaningful to catch a glimpse and easy to ignore the clouds in the sky. It is a healing experience that never feels as though it is forcing its cleansing on the audience or itself. Instead, the sisters just feel compelled to clean because their lives have been dirty for far too long. What they find beneath the grime is an unexpected and infectious grin.