Strapped for cash, Rose and her sister Norah open up shop in the lucrative niche market of post-mortem and crime-scene clean-up services. Specializing in body fluid and bloodstain removal, they cheerily call their business Sunshine Cleaning. As in Six Feet Under, everything that’s serious about death is undercut by its daily occurrence in this dark comedy. It’s a good premise — the casual laughs that develop when death becomes a chore — but it doesn’t fully redeem Sunshine Cleaning from a cast of pre-assembled characters.
Played by Amy Adams, Rose is of the same mold as Keri Russell’s character in Waitress. Tough as nails yet miraculously unscathed by cynicism, this single mom is a working-class woman wronged by circumstance. She’s a trooper who still looks pretty while Windexing blood stains at a homicide site. While Rose makes light of her dirty job, her sister — an acerbic rebel without a cause to rebel against in Albuquerque, NM — is a calculated foil. A bit of a goth, Norah (Emily Blunt) digs the dead connection. Incapable of remaining detached as she cleasn up dead people’s broken lives, she succumbs to the temptation to pocket some of the left-over emotional baggage.
These two mesh and clash in the expected ways, while also pursuing tangential relationships, romantic and otherwise. The two ladies are watched over by their loving widower father, played by Alan Arkin, who is comfortable once again in his role as a grumpy rain cloud of grandpa humor. Some high points of the film show him enlisting his seven-year-old grandson to help him pursue his All-American get-rich-quick schemes, With distractions like these, we easily forget that the film and characters are not as developed as we’d want them to be, granting us at least some good laughs along the way.