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Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning

4.0 11
Director: Christine Jeffs, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin

Cast: Christine Jeffs, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin


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A thirtysomething single mother whose boundless potential was squandered through a series of failed relationships and a misguided effort to help her younger sister succeed in life finds the fruits of her labors finally coming together in director Christine Jeffs' dark family comedy. Back in high school, the future looked pretty bright


A thirtysomething single mother whose boundless potential was squandered through a series of failed relationships and a misguided effort to help her younger sister succeed in life finds the fruits of her labors finally coming together in director Christine Jeffs' dark family comedy. Back in high school, the future looked pretty bright for Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams); not only was she the cheerleading captain, but she was also dating the star quarterback. Flash forward a little over a decade, and Rose is working overtime in hopes of getting her son into a better school. Her sister, Norah (Emily Blunt), is still living at home with their father, Joe (Alan Arkin), a failed salesman whose penchant for jumping into get-rich-quick schemes has left the family without a financial net to fall back on. Rose may be down, but she certainly isn't out, and when she hatches a plan to launch a crime-scene cleanup business, the money starts rolling in. Sure, cleaning up murder scenes and suicide sites may not be the most glamorous job in the world, but death is a fairly profitable business, and as the phone keeps ringing, Rose and Norah finally begin to experience the closeness of sisterhood that has eluded them all these years while also providing their family with true security.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
The sweet little dramedy Sunshine Cleaning is probably doomed to endless Little Miss Sunshine comparisons, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Both movies have roughly the same amount of indie quirk, both aim for the same modest level of human drama, and both feature Alan Arkin as the loving, crass grandfather to a weird but awesome kid. That's largely where the similarities end, however, because this movie isn't about beauty pageants, it's about cleaning up blood. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The kid in question belongs to the main character, Rose (played by the skillful Amy Adams, who carries things like a pro without venturing into Best Actress Diva-land). Rose was hot stuff in high school, but these days she supports her eight-year-old son, Oscar, cleaning rich people's McMansions for a Molly Maid type service, with babysitting help from her dad (Arkin), and her sister, Norah (another solid performance by Emily Blunt). Rose's baby-daddy is nowhere to be seen, and she's presently having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school, former star quarterback-turned-police officer Mac (Steve Zahn), who's since married someone else, and goes home to a white-picket-fence family life every night. Rose, however, is poor, and meets Mac in motel rooms during the hours she claims are devoted to real estate classes. Meanwhile, Oscar is bright but hyperactive, and gets into lots of trouble at school; dad is into fly-by-night business schemes, wheeling and dealing to retailers with shady overstock food items like no-name caramel corn and off-market shrimp; and Norah is just generally troubled -- in that studded bracelet, adventurously-dyed-hair kind of way. That trouble (and maybe all trouble in the story, really) stems from the death of their mom when she and Rose were kids. That's not a particularly wild premise for the emotional content of the story, but it doesn't have to be -- because the rest of the plot's Mad Libs are filled in so weirdly. On a tip from Mac, Rose learns that there's a good buck in postmortem cleanup, so she drags Norah along on a hackneyed job mopping up after a domestic shooting/finger loss. That job leads to another, and after a reasonably placed montage, we see that Rose has gotten pretty good at this, handling gory stuff that few could stomach, and playing a strange but important role in helping people when things are at their worst. It's a solid depiction of a relatable story, and it's absolutely modest about all of it, especially stylistically, where things stay remarkably reeled in (no super precious, Sundance favorite, Casio-core soundtrack here). And dramatically, there are no signs of the filmmakers overreaching in either direction -- not toward the indie side, with all that contrived über-awkwardness, or toward the movie-magic side, where rehashed storylines are treated like profound revelations. It's just a compelling, well-told story about stuff that everybody can relate to. Namely, there's an ongoing theme about death. But not in a creepy way, in a sympathetic way, pointing out how death is kind of a contradictory thing in people's minds, considering how totally universal it is. On the one hand, it's all ephemeral and airy-fairy: people who have died seem impossible to know; notions of heaven never seem to solidify. But on the other, death is as base and as gritty as it gets: there's the mess, there's the smell, and it happens to absolutely everybody. It might come in second place going up against Little Miss Sunshine toe-to-toe, but Sunshine Cleaning deserves a chance to be enjoyed on its own. And even if it can't, that's not so bad. Who doesn't love Alan Arkin as a trash-talking grandpa?

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Starz / Anchor Bay
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Special Features

Audio commentary featuring writer Megan Holley and producer Glenn Williamson; "A Fresh Look at a Dirty Business"

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Amy Adams Rose Norkowski
Emily Blunt Norah Norkowski
Alan Arkin Joe Norkowski
Jason Spevack Oscar Norkowski
Steve Zahn Mac
Mary Lynn Rajskub Lynn
Clifton Collins Winston
Eric Christian Olsen Randy
Kevin Chapman Carl
Chris Browning Actor

Technical Credits
Christine Jeffs Director
Guy Barnes Art Director
Jeb Brody Producer
Robert J. Dohrmann Co-producer
Lori Dovi Sound/Sound Designer
Alix Friedberg Costumes/Costume Designer
Joseph T. Garrity Production Designer
Dan Genetti Associate Producer
Megan Holley Screenwriter
Susan Jacobs Musical Direction/Supervision
Avy Kaufman Casting
Michael Penn Score Composer
Heather Persons Editor
Peter Saraf Producer
Gregory J. Smith Asst. Director
John Toon Cinematographer
Marc Turtletaub Producer
Glenn Williamson Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Sunshine Cleaning
1. Suicide / Main Titles [3:53]
2. In Need of Change [8:09]
3. Finding Solutions [4:43]
4. First Job [6:31]
5. Trailer Park [7:26]
6. Getting Serious [9:04]
7. Giving Blood [8:10]
8. The Pain of Loss [9:49]
9. Baby Shower [9:12]
10. Burning Down the House [8:22]
11. Making Things Right [11:35]
12. End Credits [4:14]


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Sunshine Cleaning 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wazoo More than 1 year ago
A real touching look at an american family with problems and regrets that are very hard to move on from.
gmhntr More than 1 year ago
Touching story of a young women who tries to take controll of her and her son's life. She and her sister start a crime sceen clean-up service. In the begining they screw up majorly, and the movie follows them as they grow in experience and in maturity. Some crime scenes may be too gresome for younger viewers, but nothing that isn't seen on any CSI (or their ilk) weekly TV show. The comedy may be black and over the head of younger viewers, but it rings funny for us "older" viewers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dark comedy. Good character study. A little too slow paced to hold my undivided attention.
JCWilkerson More than 1 year ago
When Rose (Amy Adams) needs to make money to put her son Oscar (Jason Spevack) into a private school when he keeps getting in trouble at his regular school, she turns to her unreliable sister Norah (Emily Blunt) to help her start a bio-hazard removal/ cleaning business. Even knowing that part of their job is to clean up after dead bodies, they still don't anticipate the job being as difficult as it is. From Norah trying to find the daughter of a suicide to Rose dealing with the personal issues of being a single mom and having an affair with a married cop, the sisters deal with life and a job that's out of the ordinary. Christine Jeffs (Sylvia) and first time screenwriter Megan Holley came up with the idea for Sunshine Cleaning from the story of two women from Seattle they heard on a National Public Radio "All Things Considered" segment. In real life the women are actually best friends who own a biohazard removal/ cleaning service, but naturally with all adaptations things are changed to better move along the story, or to help the audience to identify with the plight of the main characters. By choosing a pair of regular women to go into a job of this nature, the filmmakers have done a great job of making a movie that has a hint of originality. Also, by choosing a profession of this nature, the movie is also able to deal with elements of life and death, moving on and dealing with the darkness in our past. The movie effectively communicates it's messages while never being overbearing in it's way of dealing with them. The acting in this movie is great as would be expected from this cast of characters. Twice Oscar nominated Amy Adams (Junebug, Doubt) does a great job as the more stable sister who can't let go of her past. Oscar winner Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) returns to familiar territory as the patriarch who is always trying new business ventures to try and help his family out, internally showing signs of inadequacy having raised his daughters as a single father. The real winner in the cast is the up and coming Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, The Young Victoria) as the unstable daughter who can't get over elements of her past that seemingly tear at the fabric of her being. I really liked Sunshine Cleaning, but I kept getting the feeling that the filmmakers were trying to exert their independence in this indie film by being a lot like other films. Don't get me wrong, homages are the highest form of flattery and some of my favorite filmmakers make great living by making full films based on homages. The problem comes when watching the entire film makes you think of one film in particular in structure and in characterizations. Also following the indie model means that the characters often times have quirks that don't really further the characterization, but are just there to exert the filmmaker's passion to be non-mainstream. I do highly recommend the movie, and intend to add the film to my collection. I will admit that the indie-isms have a tendency to frustrate me at times, but that doesn't mean that you'll feel the same way when you watch this film. If you like movies like Little Miss Sunshine, you'll enjoy this movie. 4/5
John_McKoy More than 1 year ago
Have you ever seen a preview and thought, hey, that movie looks funny and light-hearted, and then rented it and thought, wow, that was really depressing and I want to blow my brains out? Well, those were pretty much exactly my thoughts about this movie. I had seen the previews in the theatres expecting to see a funny movie about an odd-ball team of cleaners getting themselves in and out of crazy situations. This was not the case. Instead, I was met with an incredibly sad film characterized by depressing event after depressing event. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, sisters Nora and Rose Lorkowski are living mundane lives and going from job to job just getting by. Nora, played by Amy Adams, was the high school dream girl that every guy wanted but now is a single mother working as maid and in an affair with the former high school quarterback. Rose, played by Emily Blunt, is a pot-smoking, beer-drinking, jobless twenty something living in her father's house. Apparently these weren't the lives Nora and Rose had dreamed of, so they set out on an adventure to start their own cleaning business, cleaning out the gory remains at the scenes of fatal accidents and suicides. Ah, this sounds rather funny and unusual, you might think. But no. It just gets really depressing from here. When they clean out these revolting scenes of terribly bloody suicides they start to reminisce about the suicide of their own mother. On some occasions they console loved ones of the victims which makes for a very sad movie. Also, Rose tries to contact a woman who's mother had killed herself to let her know the news about her mother, but instead, gets herself into a really weird lesbian relationship with the woman. Adding to the weirdness of this film is Nora's son who keeps getting in trouble at school for doing things like licking the teacher's leg, and a one armed man who works at the cleaning supply store who befriends Rose and her son. I did not get what I expected when I rented this movie. The only funny parts were when Rose and Nora would fight with each other spouting off funny combos of curse words. At points the film was touching, but for the most part it just made me sad. When Rose burned down a client's house and wrecked their cleaning business I felt like throwing a brick through my TV set out of pure grief. However, a slight bit of redemption came forth at the very end of the movie. For this movie I would say, "Leave it alone. Get a shoot-em-up that won't disappoint." I was very pleased with Amy Adam's other films including the recent Julie and Julia, but I have to say this was a poor choice of film on her part. The acting was fine, but the overall plot and theme of the movie was rather dull and uninspiring. Lesson learned: don't judge a movie by its trailer.
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