Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning: MAJOR SPOILERS

I've wanted to write and talk about this movie...not that I didn't get my chance with Ronald, but I feel the need to get my thoughts totally out there.

This isn’t a review. The movie, overall, was just ok. It’s been calling itself this year’s “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Juno.” It’s not even close, but still a moderately enjoyable watch. But the movie isn’t what I’m concerned about. At least, not the main story. What I really want to talk about is the teensy, tiny lesbian subplot, which is so small you’d almost miss it if you blinked.

Here’s where the spoilers start. I encourage you to read if 1) You don’t even want to see the movie. 2) If you do want to see it, you don’t mind it being spoiled. 3) You’ve seen it.

Aaaaanyway, the basic premise is that these two sisters start their own crime scene clean up company. Norah, the younger sister who is not the primary focus of the movie, discovers pictures of a dead woman’s daughter in one of the houses they clean, and decides to try to find the daughter and let her know, seeing as how the woman died alone and was not discovered for quite some time.

Norah sort of stalks the daughter, Lynn, and ends up in an elevator with her, where Lynn asks her why she’s following her. Norah pretends she wasn’t, and we learn that Lynn works for a blood bank drawing blood. Lynn gently touches Norah’s arm and tells her that she should donate blood, as she has nice veins (or something like that.) At the time, I just thought Lynn was a creeper…but in retrospect, I see they were planting the seeds of attraction.

Norah does eventually donate blood and asks Lynn to go to a party with her. At the party, a sex, drugs, and rock and roll kind, we see the strongest indication that there is budding attraction in the mix. A few of the people at the party are wearing candy necklaces, including Norah. Lynn points out that Norah’s “boyfriend” (seen across the room making out with two women) is winning the race. (I guess more of his candy necklace was eaten?) Norah denies that the man is her boyfriend and Lynn leans in and eats some of the candy off her Norah’s necklace. The look on Norah’s face was a mix of pure sexual desire and guilt about the real reason that she knows Lynn.

IMMEDIATELY CUT TO: an impersonal, rough, and off putting scene of Norah later being mindlessly humped by the man from the party who “wasn’t her boyfriend.” Norah’s face is blank, as she stares up at the ceiling...looking like she couldn't be less into it.

If this isn’t the subtle story of a woman who is at least questioning her sexuality, I don’t know what is! Norah and Lynn later go on a few dates (without the movie directly addressing them as dates). Norah’s character throughout the movie is strong and rough. But when she is with Lynn she lets herself be vulnerable and we learn so much about her past. The only other time Norah even seems that remotely soulful is during a very deep conversation with her sister about their deceased mother.

In the end, I was left very dissatisfied with how Lynn and Norah turned out. Norah admitted to Lynn how she really found her, and gave her the pictures she found in Lynn’s mom’s house. Lynn said something along the lines of “I thought you were really interested in me” and storms out. Norah just lets her go, but I really think she WAS interested in her, at least the way it played out in the movie. Everything I saw and felt from Norah indicated that her experiences with Lynn had opened her up to a part of herself she had shut out and ignored…or at least never explored before.

As I walked out of the theatre, people around me were talking about how they wanted the other sister, Rose to end up with the nice guy character, Winston. I couldn’t care less! I wanted more for Lynn and Norah. I just wanted them to be happy together, as cheesy as that might be. *That* was the part of the plot that really got me, and I was endlessly disappointed with it.

It left me wondering if there had been more to their story…if the original script or if the director’s cut of the movie would have been different for Norah and Lynn. Maybe the studio wanted their story cut down to make it more “mainstream.” Maybe it didn’t test well with American audiences, so they revised it to contain less of the subplot. Who knows? Either way, the really intriguing part of the story was, in my opinion, Norah and Lynn, and it was also the least complete. I mean…here’s an official synopsis from IMDB:

“Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) finds herself a single mother attempting to support her son Oscar (Jason Spevack) and her unreliable sister Norah (Emily Blunt) while working a mundane job as a maid. Once the head cheerleader in school with plenty of prospects, Rose now has little to show for her years, and while she still sees the former lead football player (Steve Zahn), it is little more than a despondent affair. When Oscar is expelled from public school, Rose takes a job as a bio-hazard crime-scene cleaner to help pay for a private education, and brings Norah on to help in her steadily growing business. As the sisters work to clean up the messes left behind by the chaotic lives of others, they must learn to reconcile their own differences and overcome a troubled past if they hope to prosper in their newfound venture.”

Not a mention of Lynn. But at least one of the plot keywords for the movie on IMDB was lesbian!


  1. That's interesting. It reminds me of a conundrum I am constantly finding myself in when it comes to gayness...

    One one hand, I want the world to come to a point when it is a non-chalant issue...or not even an issue at all. I hope for a day when one's gayness is a pure aspect of one's self.

    Then again...when I see instances where this is playing out...something inside me gets angry! Because sometimes making gayness a non-issue is perpetuating our invisibility (which is what happened in this movie, in my opinion).

    I have a lot more to say about this (of course)...but it's way too long for a comment. :)

  2. Agreed! And by making it a non issue in this one, they left Norah unchanged at the end, and kind of just copped out on her character. I feel like she was beginning a transformation...not just being gay, but also growing up. (She was constantly portrayed at the immature sister, except when with Lynn.)

    I felt almost like the message was..."What? You thought Norah was gay? Naaah...Sure she's still as immature as ever, but at least she's not GAY!"

    Ok, maybe not that bad, but yeah...

  3. but really tho...maybe that wasn't the intended message by the writer...but absolutely the message by the producers/distributors

    there's this plot in the last season of l word where one of the main characters writes a pure lesbian movie...when the distributors picked up the movie they changed the ending so that the main character went back to her original boyfriend (she had before she came out). i saw an interview with the director of l word, where she said this story was so important to her because of how often she sees it really happen in hollywood...

    so there ya go.

  4. Oh, no, I really do believe this happens in Hollywood. I've heard of it in less homophobic ways...just taking the "edge" off stories to make them more that a really good script about something nontraditional ends up as another piece of cinema trash to be spoon fed to your average idiot American viewer.

    It reminds me of when I went to the "Boy in the Striped Pajamas" screening and the lady during the Q&A asked the writer why he "chose to go with a sad ending." It. Was. A. Holocaust. Movie. But I digress...

    What I'm really saying, is that I'd like to see the *original* script to find out if a great story was hacked down, or if the lesiban subplot was really just that disappointing from the start

  5. This is an indie film, you have to remember. It's most likely there were no cuts to what the director intended. These types of films don't usually go for the mainstream or test audiences. It's usually what the creative team wanted.


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