88 of 91 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2009
Every review I've read has been quasi-negative but not being one to listen to critics, I took a chance. I was very pleasantly surprised. Depending on why you go to a movie, you may not like this because it is not escapism. It deals with real life issues and things most of us can relate to. I found the movie to be very refreshing and all the characters real to life. The main character is a single mom trying to raise a precocious son. She has to deal with a dead-end relationship and an aging father, an irresponsible sister and a job she hates. How she copes and what she does is more believable than most of the "chick flick" films out today. I think this is one of the better movies in a sea of fluff to spend time and money on. Amy Adams is wonderful and it is always refreshing to see Alan Arkin. Please don't dismiss this film because of iffy reviews. It is worth going to see.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2009
I cannot understand those who were bored by this film. I was entranced; good performances all around married to a well-developed plot with skillful writing yielded a totally satisfying experience. As one who did not much care for "Little Miss Sunshine", I was certainly not hoping for a repeat. And did not get it.
The guy at my Blockbuster store said "Oh, good movie. My wife and I watched it three times; we really liked it," when we checked it out. Three times may be a bit much, but it held us. The subplots that go nowhere (the blood bank gal, the problems in school) were, to me, perfect expressions of the fits and starts that life endlessly presents. Not everything gets tidied up; not everyone sees our attempted generosity as we do; not all stories have a satisfactory conclusion. Sometimes people are jerks, bad things happen, and we get stuck. One other pleasure was that the two people who seem to be experiencing the first sparks of interest do not hook up. How nice for a story to allow two lonely people to stay lonely, at least for now.
The other thing I truly liked about this film is that everywhere else Hollywood despises low paid labor and those who perform it. (In the movies that is; in real life, where stars are lining up defending illegal immigration so their lawns, pools, and bathrooms can be cared for at bargain rates, things are different.) But a maid and a small shop owner are treated respectfully. These are hard-working people trying, not terribly successfully, to make a go of things, and the film never laughs at them or insults them or condescends to them. Thank you.
And it wonderfully destroys some idiotic fantasies. Suicide is not glamorous and poetic, not heroic or brave; it is the ultimate act of self. You can not claim to love people when you splatter your brains across their floor and allow them to clean up the mess. That is absolute selfishness. It is not love. Love means working hard to help people, giving up something of value. Love is not motel sex. It is not sex at all; it can, and often is, the exact opposite. Love is not glorifying the old days, hoping they come back. Love is living in the now, doing what must be done, giving up what must be cast aside, and pulling together despite all the reasons there are to pull apart. This film shows that with tenderness and beauty.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2010
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.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2009
A very enjoyable quirky film which is after alot more then quick easy laughs. This film gets pretty serious at times and what an enjoyable ride it is made easier by the stellar cast. Amy Adams as Rose and her sister Norah, Emily Blunt, tend to Rose's 7 year old son, Oscar and their own cleaning business they are starting. This is no ordinary cleaning business but a crime scene clean up after the bodies have been moved and evidence secured and all that remains are the blood and the remanants of the deceased's life. What I loved about this film is the humanity of the characters, real people, real problems and real situations that have you pulling for them even as you shake your head at their mistakes. Alan Arkin is a joy as the cranky, scheming father of Rose and Norah, he is at a place as an actor that he brings so much of what you expect from him as an actor while also bringing such subtle differences to all his characters that you never feel you're seeing the same character you might've seen in another movie. Amy Adams is a shining revelation of eternal optimism and she has you pulling for her as she tries win over her own demons. Emily Blunt and Jason Spevak as Oscar are wonderfully funny and real. There is a real honesty amidst some outrageously funny stuff that never panders or lectures and never cheats the audience. I only felt cheated at the end when the movie ended. I wasn't ready to leave this family behind and wanted to live with them a little longer. That is a good thing when a movie leaves you wanting more.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2009
There are mega movie blockbusters that beat down the doors of the local multiplex, pushing the competition out with promises of big bucks and taking over 10 of 18 screens at one shot. Sure, this means that the movie in question will be able to handle all comers the first weekend. But what about the little guy? What about the small independent movies that don't garner big budget advertising or multiple screens? These films play art houses and special theaters. Or they arrive on DVD with the chance to be found. SUNSHINE CLEANING is one such film.
We all have dreams of where we want to go with out lives. Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) was the head cheerleader, the girl most likely to succeed, the one in love with the big man on campus. Those dreams died and she moved on, becoming a single mother who works for a house cleaning service to make ends meet. She continues to see Mac (Steve Zahn), her knight in shining armor and now a homicide cop, but he's married with children and unlikely to leave.
When Rose's son Oscar (Jason Spevack) becomes more than the local school can handle, Rose must find a way to not only do better for herself but to be able to afford a private school for her son. During one of their liaisons, Mac suggest to her she start her own cleaning business cleaning crime scenes. The pay is great and she has time for her son.
After thinking it over, Rose takes on the task and recruits her sister Norah (Emily Blunt) to help. But Norah has problems of her own, mainly a rebellious streak that stems from Rose being overprotective and having to deal with a never present mother. But she goes with the flow and helps out Rose, making money for herself as well.
The pair start slowly with tips from Mac about which scenes to go to first. Stopping in a local warehouse cleaning supply store, Rose makes friends with the owner, a one armed shop keeper named Winston (Clifton Collins Jr.). Seeing the problems they are having, Winston helps her along the way with suggestions about cleaning supplies and classes she might want to take.
Their first job is one that almost makes them give in. A trailer whose owner died several days before being found, Rose and Norah do the job at hand. As they clean, Norah finds a fanny pack that belonged to the home's owner that contains a packet of pictures tied with a bow of a young girl from childhood to graduation, a treasure. It hits Norah that this woman held on to these pictures for a reason and rather than toss them out, she holds on to them and searches for the woman in the photos.
The business goes well at first and Rose seems to be getting along fine. But a chance encounter with an old school chum just before she left her old job leaves her feeling hollow and disappointed in the life she expected but that never came to be. Invited to the woman's baby shower, she makes a point of planning to attend to relive her glory days with the women she knew then.
Norah seeks out the young woman and finds her in a staling type way. They become friends without the woman knowing the real reason for her meeting Norah. The resolution to this friendship is unexpected and more real than one would think.
The chance to make it big comes with a call from State Farm Insurance who wants to hire Sunshine Cleaning for a job. Excited by the prospect, Rose shrugs off her responsibilities to go to the shower and sends Norah to do a job by herself. Face it, a happy ending is not waiting around the corner. Perhaps.
The movie does a great job of storytelling, not only moving along at a nice pace but giving us characters who feel real and who we can care about as it unfolds. Rose is a determined woman who wants the best out of life but for some reason just can't seem to reach the goals she sets for herself. Adams does a fantastic job as Rose, bringing home the despair and hope seen in the character from one moment to the next.
Emily Blunt does an outstanding job as well, offering a sister with problems that began years ago searching for the answers the questions she's not even quite sure she knows to ask. A history that involves the girl's mother and what became of her results in one of the most touching images towards the end of the film.
SUNSHINE CLEANING may not be everyone's cup of tea. It's low key, it feels like it's in the real world we want to escape while watching a movie, but at the same time it offers hope and a spark of life seen in few films. This may not be the biggest or most expensive film released this week, but it is one that has plenty of heart in its center and worth giving a watch.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2010
It's rare to see a movie with believable dialogue and an odd plot. Usually, the writer will add more platitudes to the dialogue to dampen the oddness and make the story seem more familiar. (Superhero movies do this often.) There's certainly nothing ordinary about a single mother deciding to start a crime scene cleaning business--even when the economy is bad--but the desperation of Rose Lorkowski (brilliantly played by Amy Adams) and her childless-but-a-child-herself sister Norah (played by Emily Blunt) is so complete that it seems like a good idea. Adams excellent sense of pathos draws the audience in; her situation just sucks, and although she doesn't always make good decisions, she indeed suffers.
As great as Adams is in this film, Clifton Collins, Jr. stands out for me. He takes an essentially thin character (Winston) and makes him vibrant, full of ideas and feelings, even when he's given little to do and little to say. He does it with such subtlety that it's difficult to pinpoint what he's doing to make the character work. I haven't seen him in many films, and this seems a shame as he's quite talented.
I have no idea why Alan Arkin is in this film. He plays the same seemingly absent-minded crank as he does in Little Miss Sunshine only he's less funny here. The role should have been given to someone who would actually try and not phone it in with their own personality.
The tone of the film is a bit uneven. Is this a comedy, a drama, a mash of genres? The director didn't make that decision, and so we call the film "independent." But the excellent acting makes up for the film's few faults.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Sunshine Cleaning" is named for the business begun by two sisters: the business of cleaning up after crimes and deaths. The sisters, beautifully played by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, are trying to make a go of their lives, family relationships, failed romances and feelings of inferiority. They too are survivors of the death of their mother many years before and were raised by their father, memorably acted by Alan Arkin. While they learn how to deal with this truly gruesome business, they nevertheless demonstrate a deep compassion for others and learn the value of their own particular lives. This is a truly wonderful story by the producers of "Little Miss Sunshine." In my opinion, this is a far better film with characters that will stay with you a long time. This film is a winner!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Given the cast that's in the film,Amy Adams,Emily Blunt & Alan Arkin, I've wanted to see this movie since I saw the ads when it was in the cinema.
It's a rather dark but amusing tale of average working class people that exist in a very hand to mouth existence,just looking for a way in life to get along as best they can.
Amy Adams plays Rose Lorkowski who's boyfriend (Steve Zahn) suggests that there's good money in crime scene cleanup and she & her sister stumble their way into a new business.
I never really thought about the people that have to do this type of work. There are touching scenes as they deal with other peoples tragedies that trigger echoes of their own tragic memories,but as heavy as that all sounds,it's a very warm and funny movie.
I really enjoyed it and I will enjoy watching it again in the future.
It's presented in both wide screen and full screen presentations with audio commentary by the writer and the producer.
There's also an amusing documentary that features two real life Bio-Recovery ladies that discuss how the work really is and their take on the film which I enjoyed watching before I watched the film.
Overall I really liked the movie and I'm mentioning it to all my friends and telling them to see it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2014
A thirty-something 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 entitled,Sunshine Cleaning.
Back in high school, the future looked pretty bright for Rose Lorkowski. Not only was she the cheer leading 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 is still living at home with their father, Joe, 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.
Taken on its own terms, though, it's a solid indie effort with plenty of nice character strokes by screenwriter Megan Holley and razor-sharp performances by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as both actresses rise above the clunky premise and execution to once again demonstrate why they've become the go-to girls for any director seeking smart, versatile and warm-blooded talent.Also,its overall ability to balance humor and drama, attention to emotional detail and a few winning performances overcomes its overly familiar plot.Overall,this independent film gives full weight to the impact of death without rubbing our faces in the crime scenes and it sustains through the odd family relationship that we do care for the characters involved.Indeed,this is a must-see film even for the performance of both Adams and Blunt alone.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2012
Sunshine Cleaning has a lot of amusing moments, but it's not the kind of comedy that tries to make you laugh with every line of dialogue or in every situation. Indeed, some of the subject matter is quite dark.
Rose Lorkowski (Adams) is a single mother. She's good at getting men to want her, but most don't want to date her or enter into any kind of permanent relationship. She's having an affair with a local cop, Mac (Steve Zahn), but it's clear to us that he has no intention of leaving his pregnant wife. Rose is nothing more than a diversion for him and he's not emotionally invested in the relationship.
Rose makes ends meet by working as a maid, but she's hoping to better herself. Mac finds himself investigating a suicide and discovers that it costs around $3,000 to clear up the mess. He suggests to Rose that it would be a lucrative line of work so she decides to give it a try. Rose recruits her sister, Norah (Blunt), and the two buy a van and open a business. Unfortunately, they don't have the required knowledge to do their job safely and within the law. They also don't have any kind of insurance.
The two quickly learn and are helped by the owner of a local store who explains what equipment to buy and how to become certified. Rose's life starts to improve.
The other main character is Joe (Arkin), the girls' father. He means well and is always promising his grandson trips and presents, but he rarely delivers. He reminds me of my grandfather in some ways and is always looking for some kind of scheme to earn money. One such scheme involves selling shrimp to local restaurants, but he's stuck with them when the restaurant owners refuse to buy for health reasons.
This is a quiet film with some good observations on life. One sequence shows Rose desperately trying to fit in with women she knew in school. Why is it important to her that she looks good in front of them? The film doesn't try to make Rose and Norah glamorous. They are portrayed as normal people with flaws and problems to overcome. Both actresses are likable and their relationship feels authentic. Rose has been looking after Norah since their mother died.
There's quite a lot of depth to the film at times. Rose realizes that the job sometimes involves becoming a part of people's lives for a brief period. There's a particularly touching scene in which she comforts a confused old woman who has just found out that her husband is dead. This is the kind of film that can make you reflect on sad situations and then make you laugh a minute later.
The casting is an important ingredient. Adams and Blunt have good chemistry and Arkin holds everything together. While his character often seems clueless, there's a lot more to him. He clearly cares about his daughters and does his best to be a positive force in their lives.
The film also challenges our definition of success. Is career success more important than family or romantic relationships? Does it matter how you make a living if you take care of yourself and the people who are close to you? Should we try and conform to society's definition of success?
Adams sometimes accepts questionable roles, but she is talented and can shine in the right part. I was particularly impressed with her supporting role in Doubt, and she shows here that she has a lot to offer as a dramatic actress as well as in lighter roles.