So it's been a while since I've done one of these, but this one certainly does warrant a warm, praiseworthy review.
It's about a baby sister who can't really get much right, and an older sister who, despite her own problems, takes on those of her family in order to make things right...make things sunny again.
Needless to say, it hit close to home. ;]
I have not seen a more unique and redemptive film in a long time. Neither have I seen a film that portrays such an authentic relationship between sisters, something that I believe is next to impossible to truly render on screen. I should know better than most and rightly so being that my two older sisters and I have complicated, beautiful, dynamic relationships, as do any and all sisters that I know well. My two lovely siblings have been there for me in huge ways all throughout my life. As of late, my eldest Erika is letting me live with her during my internship at the magazine she works for and my next eldest Alyssa let me crash on her couch in Chicago whenever I needed to during my college career in the city.
Both listen to me and give me wisdom (though it's always self deprecatingly so..."I mean, this only comes from my personal experience...I really don't know everything. But I think..."), both mother me and take care of me when I'm sick, have body function difficulty, need a home cooked meal or a resume check, am a weepy mess over some blown-out-of-proportion issue of mine, etc., and both 100% understand where I'm coming from when it comes to life decisions, romantic relationships, family, and friends...
and being a college graduate with little to no direction.
So they give where they can without expecting anything in return (except for maybe a helping hand or two to feed kitties once in a while), and I've come to more fully appreciate their presence in my life as I've gotten a little older. This movie only confirmed that they're going to be there when times get rough, and after four years of analyzing film from an objective point of view, it's been nice to find a little catharsis in the thought that I can turn to Erika and Alyssa in the exact same way that Norah Lorkowski turns to her older sister Rose.
Amy Adams becomes (as she always does with her roles) the very essence of Rose--a forlorn single parent to both her deviant little boy Oscar (he gets kicked out of school for licking things, namely his teacher) and her tattooed, crass little sister Norah, the earnest and loud-mouthed Emily Blunt (her last name is telling in this particular role). This being said, the girls' father (a harebrained Alan Arkin) is also a single parent struggling as much as his daughters when it comes to finding work. He peddles to niche shops for a living and not very well. Taking after her father's knack (or lack thereof) for unconventional work, Rose decides to turn her few skills as house maid into a more financially forgiving business: biohazard removal. In other words, she and her unemployed sister Norah clumsily clean up crime scenes in an attempt to make a quick buck.
The work is excruciatingly difficult, putrid, and grisly. Nevertheless, the two young sisters soldier through, and it's great fun to watch their initial disgust (only one episode of vomiting, surprisingly) evolve into a series of macabre, sarcastic banter at the sight of crime scene gore. For example, upon arrival to a client's mangled home they must search the premises for any bloody remains waiting to be wet-vac'd. At their first home, a domestic dispute case, Rose calls in her sister after finding the big, red surprise in the bathroom: a finger in the sink and blood spatter covering the shower. Norah's sardonic reply:
"Ya think they loved each other....?"
The questioning of marital stability is one of the film's major themes and so is the attempt at reconciliation between daughters and absent mothers. But in my opinion, these are only at the surface. More than once the characters call out to an unseen God, whether it be through a conversion van's intercom or while hanging on for dear life under a railroad track as a freight speeds past--and the responses they receive are how they deal with their pasts, how they come to understand and connect with each other...how they bring a little sunshine back into each others lives. And this was where I found my sisterly catharsis.
My favorite response of all,
"I recommend the pecan pie."