Sunshine Cleaning is a small indie movie that lingers on the border between comedy and drama. Like it’s unofficial predecessor Little Miss Sunshine (same producers, Alan Arkin is back and it’s got Sunshine in the title) this movie deals with a serious storyline with an occasional gag thrown in. Gags that don’t rely on bodily fluids being the punchline. Something that could’ve been easily done in a movie about cleaning up crime scenes. Come to think of it, there is one joke dealing with bodily fluids, but it’s not like they’re the highlight of this film.
The highlight here is the relationship between two sisters, Rose and Norah Lorkowski. Both of them have failed in life: Rose (the always sparkling Amy Adams, who shows a fair amount of skin in this movie) is a simple house cleaner who once was the star of the cheer leading team and dated the school-jock Mac (Steve Zahn). She’s got his child and still has sex on a regular basis with him but he’s married to someone else and keeps her satisfied with false promises. Norah is an underachiever and can’t even seem to keep a job as a waitress. She still lives with her father (Alan Arkin) who had to raise these two alone since the suicide of his wife, there mom.
One night during a rendezvous at a motel Mac tells Rose there’s a lot of money to be made from cleaning up crime scenes. When her son gets into trouble at school and Rose decides to put him in a private school she needs more money than she now makes and decides to start a clean up service with her sister Norah: Sunshine Cleaning. “My son made the logo” she proudly says to the owner of a store dealing with supplies for this certain kind of branch. The owner provides the girls with the needed advice on what is required to have a business like this and is hinted to be some sort of future love interest of Amy.
Sunshine Cleaning has a lot of that indie charm that you don’t see in a lot of comedies, but it isn’t completely full of it. At the end of the movie I did feel a sense of incompleteness. There is a subplot dealing with the daughter of a dead woman who’s house they have to clean up. They find some personal belongings and Norah decides to track her down. When she meets this woman called Lynn (Played by 24’s Chloe O’Brian; Mary Lynn Rajskub) she’s too scared to hell her anything but they do hit something off and start seeing each other on a regular basis, yet they both have different expectations of this relationship; Lynn is a lesbian and thinks Norah is interested in her while Norah sees her as someone who’s also lost a mother. Somehow this subplot felt kind of incomplete as it comes to an halt quite abruptly.
The end of the movie was too open in my opinion. Five to ten minutes more could’ve helped this movie that starts out on a light note but goes darker during the course of it. But it’s never depressing to watch Amy Adams, even when she’s scraping blood of the wall with a toothbrush.