US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Sunshine Cleaning

By Patrick McCormick | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
Directed by Christine Jeffs and Megan Holley (Overture Films, 2009)

Christine Jeffs and Megan Holley's touching film about a spunky but dysfunctional family on economic and emotional skids is something of a misfit-part fairy tale about two lovely but cursed sisters and part dark comedy about the underside of the American Dream. But maybe a film about misfits should have some of the same unpolished and uneven feel of its characters, inviting exasperation and compassion in response to folks more like us than we would like to think.

In a rundown Albuquerque where most folks are decidedly not "above average," former prom queen Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) awakes each morning to find her dreams of happily ever after replaced with a daylight nightmare in which her Prince Charming (Steve Zahn) married another princess, and Rose is a single mom Cinderella cleaning other people's suburban castles.

 Desperate to escape this nightmare and to raise the private school tuition for her precocious son, Oscar, Rose enlists her brooding goth sister, Norah (Emily Blunt) in a startup company that cleans up after homicides and suicides. Soon the two women are up to their eyeballs in seeping, sloshing bodily fluids and stinky, icky, gross things that should only show up in dungeons. And though Rose and Norah are as incompetent and inexperienced a pair as ever tackled a biohazard, they bring a mixture of pluck, luck, and compassion that endears them to clients and suppliers. 

But Rose and Norah still have plenty of personal trash to take out before they can get their own lives in order, and it is not at all clear if they have the right stuff to spin all this filth into gold. Rose needs to dump her married lover and quit playing the damsel in distress every time she's in a jam, while Norah has to sort through the wreckage inflicted by her mother's suicide. Still, these two sisters are more than perky and quirky enough to have audiences hoping that they will make a clean sweep of it in the end.