The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Overture/Anchor Bay - 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 91 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Clifton Collins
Directed by: Christine Jeffs
Music by: Michael Penn
Written by: Megan Holley
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 25, 2009
"Life's a messy business"
Desperate to get her son into a better school, single mom Rose (Amy Adams) persuades her slacker sister Norah (Emily Blunt) to join her in the crime scene cleanup business to make some quick cash. With the help of their ill-fated salesman father (Alan Arkin), they climb the ranks in a very dirty job, finding themselves up to their elbows in murders, suicides, and specialized situations. But underneath the dust and grime they also come to discover a true respect for one another, and create a brighter future for the entire Lorkowski family.
Sunshine cleaning is a character driven drama about family and the realization of self worth. The story revolves around Rose Lorkowski (Adams) a single mom who works long hours cleaning the houses of others in order to support herself and her young son Oscar (Spevak). For Rose life presents daily challenges that come in the form of maintaining a love affair with her ex high school sweetheart (who opted to marry someone else) a son who has disruptive tendencies that keep him in trouble at school, a financially unsuccessful salesman of a father (Arkin), and a sister who can't keep a job and has unresolved emotional issues stemming from the death of their mother. Rose finds that she must be the glue to hold everyone else together but finds that she has no one to turn to when the need arises. When she learns that cleaning up biohazard related crime scenes/deaths pays well she sees an opportunity to make decent money so she can afford to send Oscar to a better school. She enlists her unemployed, and sometimes difficult, sister Norah (Blunt) and starts the business which she calls Sunshine cleaning. Rose quickly learns that it is not only a competitive business but one that requires proper training, equipment/insurance, and a strong stomach!
Rose is a dedicated mother who not only struggles to support her son but has to deal with personal issues about doubt and self worth. In high school she was head cheerleader, dated the football team's quarterback and was the envy of many of her girlfriends. Years later she finds herself unmarried with a son and struggling to make ends meet. She is in a dead end relationship (and has been years for years) with her married ex high school sweetheart Mac (Zahn), who apparently decided that she wasn't good enough for him to marry but is too much of a coward to admit that he should have. Both she and younger sister Norah have emotional issues surrounding the death of their mother which occurred in front of them when they were younger. Their father is loving/supportive but is unable to help the girls on an emotional level regarding the loss of their mother. Rose and Norah have a strained relationship where Rose constantly feels obligated to catch Norah every time she falls (which seems to be often). Norah discovers a photo of a young woman at the scene of clean up involving the unattended death of a seemingly lonely elderly woman. She decides to seek the young woman out believing that she is the deceased's estranged daughter. Norah does this secretly and feels a sense of obligation about it that seems directly related to her personal feelings about losing her mother. She does locate her but soon finds out that the act itself had more to do with her own attempt at healing than having meaning to the woman (played by Mary Lynn Rajskub) .
The script does an excellent job of painting a multi-dimensional picture and establishing tangible relationships between the film's characters that creates a bond with the audience. These are empathetic and well drawn people who suffer from issues that while not earth shattering had a feeling of realism. This was illustrated at several points in the film. One example occurs in the scene where Rose is cleaning a beautifully luxurious home when the lady of the house comes home and recognize her from high school. She asks Rose how things are going, if she ever married her high school sweetheart/football team quarterback Mac, and tells her she always envied her as the head cheerleader/popular girl. This wasn't said with malice intent but strictly as more of a catch up conversation. Rose couldn't help but feel as though her life hasn't been what she hoped. The same woman invites her to her upcoming baby shower which occurs after Rose has had some success with her new business. Rose attends the party even though she had been called just before to respond to a clean up. She sends Norah by herself with the promise of coming soon after. Rose wanted very much to feel a part of the group and sought acceptance as she described her new job/business to the women at the party. Things didn't quite turn out the way she envisioned either at the party or with sending Norah alone to handle the clean up. The events of that night eventually lend Norah and Rose to a sort of reckoning in both their relationship and separate lives.
This isn't an uplifting film but it has the potential to be a sobering one that is spun with a slightly dark sense of humor that is presented in just the right amounts so that it doesn't interfere with its message. I found it rewarding, appreciated the wonderful performances by the cast and enjoyed its perfectly paced and well written script/direction.
The rating is for Language, disturbing images, some sexuality and drug use.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Sunshine cleaning comes to Blu-ray Disc from Anchor Bay HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate 3.2 mbps.
This is a high quality video presentation that vividly translated the elements represented in this film. The 2.40:1 framed video was exquisitely detailed and lifelike which provided a transparent perspective when looking at objects and people onscreen. Images had a near infinite level of depth that enhanced long range camera pans. Colors were intentionally muted but displayed good tonal balance which allowed deeper hues to pop when appropriate or remain less prominent when not essential. Fleshtones were sullen, with milky white but distinct complexions that didn't come across as unnatural or pasty. Contrast was bold without overcooking brightly lit scenes and washing out whites. Blacks were noise free with deep highlights and good dynamic range. Shadow delineation was strong which elevated detail perception in low light improving depth of field. An example of this can be seen in the trestling sequence as Norah and Lynn stand beneath the train trestle. The detail in the trestle's support structure, their darkened clothing and the immediate surrounding area is clearly discernible in the soft glow of the evening light. The video had a refined and pristine quality that displays a light veil of grain that lends it an agreeable and cinematic texture that is enriching. The film's soundtrack is almost entirely dialogue driven aside from a brief sequence where Norah stands directly below a train trestle as the train passes by right above her. That scene did provide a fair sense of surround envelopment with a subtle low end kick that pulsed along with dynamic weight of the train as it rumbled along the tracks. Otherwise things remained front oriented with dialogue clearly and centrally focused. The remaining sounds and off camera spatial cues were naturally spread across the front three channels and corresponded well with the onscreen events.
- Audio commentary featuring writer Megan Holley and producer Glenn Williamson
- (HD) Sunshine cleaning: A fresh look at a dirty business - 11 minute featurette
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
- (HD) BD Previews:
- Last chance Harvey
- Henry Poole is here
- The Visitor
- Crash: The Series
- Movie Trailer: Paper heart
- BD-Live enabled
Sunshine cleaningis a well crafted drama about the irony that can sometimes emerge from life's decisions and the importance of realizing ones self worth. It features a solid script and capable direction from Christine Jeffs. The cast, most notably Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, lend superb credibility to their well drawn and genuine characters. Its pristine quality high definition debut on Blu-ray Disc from Overture/Anchor Bay offers lucid, three dimensional imagery that looked great on my large screen. I wasn't overly impressed by the bonus supplements as a whole however the 'Fresh look at a dirty business' documentary was both interesting and appropriate for the film's subject matter. This is an entertaining and down to earth film that is worthy of your time so throw it in the queue and give it a spin.
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