Sunshine Cleaning

Don't be scammed by the "sunshine" in the title. More than a few dark clouds roll through this tale of two sisters, played with comic zest and quiet desperation by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, who decide to make a living by cleaning up crime scenes in their native New Mexico. Need to wipe guts and viscera off your walls? Call Rose (Adams) and Norah (Blunt). Former high school prom queen Rose, a single mom raising a precocious seven-year-old (Jason Spevack), is stuck in life and in a shabby affair with a married cop (Steve Zahn, reliably excellent). Norah lives with their cranky widower dad (Alan Arkin, reliably Arkin) and yells out her frustrations in screaming contests with trains. Why not earn fuck-you money by wiping blood off walls? It may be a ticket out.

Sunshine Cleaning (the name Rose puts on their truck) comes from the producers who struck gold with Little Miss Sunshine. So the title and the presence of the Oscar-winning Arkin playing another lovable geezer opposite a cute little Mr. might seem like a premature return to the well. Hang on. New Zealand's Christine Jeffs, who directed Gwyneth Paltrow in Sylvia, shapes the script, by newcomer Megan Holly, into something with its own scrappy integrity. Rose and Norah are damaged goods, scarred by their mother's suicide, though they rarely speak of it. This funny and touching movie depends on two can-do actresses to scrub past the biohazard of noxious clichés that threaten to intrude. Adams and Blunt get the job done. They come highly recommended.

From The Archives Issue 128: February 15, 1973
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