Saturday, August 21, 2021

REVIEW: Sunshine Cleaning (live action movie)

Sunshine Cleaning is a 2008 drama. I bought my copy brand new.


In high school, Rose was a popular cheerleader with a handsome boyfriend. Years later, she's a single mom who works for a cleaning service. She tells everyone she's taking real estate classes when in reality she's meeting up with her old high school boyfriend, who's now a married cop. When her son's behavior gets him kicked out of school, she decides to try her hand at crime scene cleaning, because she heard it was lucrative and the money could help her get him into a good private school. She can't do it alone, so she enlists her sister's help.

What starts off as a way to make some cash turns into something more, as both sisters think more deeply about their lives, their relationships, and their memories of their mother.

A quick story about buying this DVD: I saw it in the cheap movie bin at the grocery store and remembered that the trailer had looked decent. When I went to go pay, the young woman at the register was absolutely horrified and told me that this movie was vile and I shouldn't watch it. When I got home, I discovered that the movie wasn't in my bags, so I went back and had a talk with customer service, since it was on my receipt.

I'm convinced that the young woman who thought this movie was so vile never actually watched it. Her reaction had me anticipating horrific gross and gory moments. It depends on how it's done, but I'm not generally great with that kind of thing, so I was braced for the worst (but still determined to watch it, because being told I shouldn't watch or read something makes me mulish).

Instead, this ended up being a surprisingly sensitive and emotional movie. Yes, Rose and Norah had to deal with some gross stuff: blood stains, rotten and maggot-covered food, and there was a brief shot of some guy's finger in a sink. However, for the most part it didn't glory in the grossness or turn it into a joke. The primary exception was maybe the suicide in the gun shop, which happened fairly early on. Everything else, though, underscored that Rose and Norah were cleaning up places where people had lived and died. They didn't see the bodies, but they still got an intimate peek into these people's lives.

Norah found herself thinking about her mother a lot. She could barely remember her, but did remember finding her body after she'd committed suicide. Rose, meanwhile, was prompted to reevaluate her life and where she wanted things to go. She was ashamed for her old high school friends to see her as "just a maid" when their lives looked so much better than hers, but at the same time she gradually came to the realization that there was something fulfilling about cleaning up after traumatic events and making things even just a little better for the people left behind.

Although it didn't have as big of a gore and grossness factor as I was expecting, it did have other aspects that made it difficult to watch. I hated Rose's relationship Mac, the married cop. It was clearly a bad idea all around, and it was only going to make her more miserable. And ugh, Norah. She meant well, but still.

I wish the storyline involving Winston had been a bit more fleshed out. As it was, he felt like wasted potential. He was clearly interested in Rose, and there was a feeling like she could potentially be interested in him back, once her life stopped being one crisis after another. Instead of doing something with that, however, the movie just left him as "that decent one-armed guy at the cleaning supply store." Maybe if they'd cut some of the "that guy only has one arm" moments, which were mostly pointless and annoying, there'd have been time for Winston to ask Rose out for coffee or something.

This isn't something I plan to rewatch, but it was worth viewing once.


Audio commentary with the writer and director and "A Fresh Look at a Dirty Business." I didn't watch or listen to any of it.

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