Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning
Directed by Christine Jeffs
Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin

Sunshine Cleaning is a story about family when it comes down to it. I was skeptical about renting it when I read that it was produced by the same people who did Little Miss Sunshine, shares a similar title, and features Alan Arkin as the kooky but lovable grandpa.  Not that I didn't like Little Miss Sunshine, I just didn't want to be disappointed when they turned out to be the same movie.

The film follows the lives of two sisters, Rose (Adams) and Nora (Blunt).  Rose was the popular girl in high school who everyone wanted to be friends with but reached a peak there.  Now, she is a single mother of Oscar (the unbelievably adorable Jason Spevack) and works cleaning the homes of wealthy neighbors.  Nora is the family rebel, covered with eyeliner and tattoos, still living with her dad in the house she grew up in and sort of dating some douche she doesn't really give a shit about.

Mack, Rose's high school beau now married, meets Rose weekly in a cheap motel where they engage in a no-strings-attached affair.  Of course, however, there are always strings.  Rose is still hanging onto him in the hopes he will leave his wife or he will confess his love for her.  Through Mack, Rose learns of the lucrative business of postmortem clean-up and seizes the opportunity for her sister and her to make some extra cash so Oscar can get into a private school.

The key to the movie is the relationships.  The relationship between Nora and Oscar, Oscar and his grandfather, Joe (Arkin), Rose and Winston, the kind, one-armed loner who works at the cleaning supply store, and that between Nora and Lynn, who meet through a not so coincidental run-in.  The true center, though, is the relationship between Nora and Rose.

The girls explore their shared history, often flashing back to a scene of them when they're little, playing in a sprinkler.  They argue and fight before eventually coming to a boiling point in their relationship that culminates all that they are to each other.  The relationship is a thing of beauty, the kind that only sisters who know what it means to rely on each other have.

Easily one of the more moving films I've seen in a while and the acting is spectacular.  A definite must-see.