Fighting with the Sky

Sunshine Cleaning [Movie Monday]

Posted on: August 31, 2009

SunshineCleaningPosterSunshine Cleaning is the story of two sisters, Rose and Nora, who are entirely different yet work together in the most brilliant of ways. Rose (played by Amy Adams) is a single mom struggling to make something of herself and make a better life for her son. Nora (played by Emily Blunt) is a slacker who still lives with their father (Alan Arkin) and avoids work like it’s the plague. After her son gets kicked out of yet another school, Rose needs to earn more money so she can afford to send him to private school. She gets Nora to join her in the creation of the company Sunshine Cleaning, a company that provides “bio-hazard removal and postmortem cleaning” – basically they go clean up after someone dies. It’s a disgusting job, but the sisters learn the specialized field and are determined to succeed (well, more so Rose than Nora). The movie provides moments of laughter and tears (or at least sadness, I didn’t really cry, but some would).

I was expecting something different out of this movie.  I wanted to see the movie in the theaters but wasn’t able to.  From the trailer, I thought it might potentially be more light-hearted than it was.  Even though is wasn’t exactly what I expected, Sunshine Cleaning pleasantly surprised me.  It was a movie about a serious topic, dealing with death, that was funny at times.  Rose and Nora had to deal with death on a daily basis not only physically through their work, but they also had to emotionally deal with their mother’s suicide when they were children.  It’s definitely not a formulaic movie, which I always appreciate.

So, where does feminism come into this movie?  It’s definitely not blatant, but it’s there.  Both Rose and Nora are trying to find themselves.  They haven’t really known who they are since their mother died.  They are trying to deal with that grief while also living their lives.  Rose does whatever it takes to support her son, as well as sometimes her sister and her father.  At some points she struggles (as we all do).  She takes something that’s necessary for money and turns it into something she loves to do, even if it is gross.  Even though she doesn’t believe it herself at points, she is a strong woman who does what needs to be done and makes the best of it.  Nora, on the other hand, does whatever she wants and doesn’t always care what the effect is.  But working with Rose gives her some sense of responsibility, even if it is not that great.  Nora’s story can tell us to follow our dreams.  I don’t know if Nora’s actions are necessarily following “dreams,” but they are about following desires.

I would recommend Sunshine Cleaning.  It is an interesting story and has great acting.  I love Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, and Alan Arkin.  Alan Arkin’s character of the father is fairly similar to his character in Little Miss Sunshine, if that gives you any idea.  But the roles for Amy Adams and Emily Blunt were fairly different than what I have seen them in.  It was nice to see Amy Adams in a more serious role that still brought out some of her perkiness.  And I’m used to seeing Emily Blunt as an over-achiever (Devil Wears Prada, Jane Austen Book Club) which she is completely not in this movie.

Further Reading:

Sunshine Cleaning: DVD Review [Entertainment Realm]

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