“Sunshine Cleaning”
 
            Amy Adams won a Best Supporting Actress nomination for “Doubt,” but in “Sunshine Cleaning,” she’s even more accessible.  She plays Rose Lorkowski, a still-young woman whose life has just sort of trailed off like a voice dropping at the end of a sentence.  She was the head cheerleader in high school, dating the captain of the football team.  And though she still meets him for trysts in cheap hotel rooms, as if by rote, he’s now married to someone else, and gone on to be a police detective with a family.  She has a boy, a bright, mischievous boy, who’s always getting in trouble for his lively curiosity, but she refuses to see him as a discipline problem.  The people around him just don’t give him enough space.  Her Dad, Joe (Alan Arkin), supports her in this.  In fact, he pretty much supports her in everything, as best he can.  Mom, we find out, committed suicide long ago, when the sisters were little.  Yes, there’s a little sister, too, Norah (Emily Blunt), who’s always been a mess-up, and wears the part:  smoking, tattoos, gothic look, can’t hold on to a job.  But she’s getting a little long in the tooth for teenage rebel, even as Amy is getting too old to keep riding the “cute cheerleader just taking a cleaning job while she works on her real estate license.” The truth is, she plays hooky from the real estate classes so she can hook up in the cheap hotel room with her football captain.  She’s never really taken responsibility for her adult life, but accidentally running into the snobbery of some of the other cheerleading alums has awakened her, and she latches on to an opportunity to start a small business cleaning up after dead people:  that is, the blood and gore after someone commits suicide.  The irony is that this brings back painful memories of her mother, for both her and her sister.  They still haven’t really worked through it all.  Neither has their Dad, who’s bouncing along the edge of shyster entrepreneurism himself.  This is a family seriously in need in redemption.  There’s even a poignant attempt to speak to God on the old c.b. radio in the beat-up van they purchased for “Sunshine Cleaning.”  What passes for prayer, though, is really a plea for some kind of personal connection, not so much with the quick as with the dead.    Love interest?  Well, there’s the one-armed man who owns the cleaning supply store.  He’s at least attentive.  And not otherwise attached.  We want so much for Rose to enjoy a breakthrough somehow, even if she can’t figure out a way.  Just as we root for all those who try so hard, and are disarmingly charming in their distracted dissolution, but need to be shown a more excellent way.
            “Fired Up” is a juvenile movie in every sense of the word.  It stars a couple of hormone-filled football players who decide that they could really “score” with the chicks by pretending to be interested in cheerleading, and playing hooky from football camp to attend cheerleading camp with the chicks.  There, they find many willing partners.  They also discover that they’re kinda into cheerleading themselves.  And against all odds, they lead their team to become the best they can be.  Yeah.  It would be too corny to endure were it not for the constant humor, which, despite the PG-13 rating, really is crude and sexual.  But it’s not “R” in the sense of showing the forbidden body parts, or delivering the forbidden word, so parents should be warned that the content is still pretty racy for young teens and preteens, who would also be the target audience.  But, at some of these adolescent antics you laugh in spite of yourself.  Because the creeps get their comeuppance, the mean-spirited get left out, and the fun-loving, life-affirming dudes get to enjoy themselves thoroughly.  Could be a lot worse.
            There are no cheerleaders in “I Love You, Man.”  At least not any that wear cutesy uniforms.  But when the groom (Paul Rudd) finds himself without an obvious choice for best man, he realizes he has no guy friends at all.  So, with the blessing of his fiancée Zooey (Rashida Jones), he goes looking for male friends, which may be even more culturally hazardous than standard heterosexual dating.  After some disastrous attempts too easily misunderstood, finally, he finds Sydney (Jason Segel), who seems perfect:  he has a “man cave” where they can watch movies, talk about their jobs, pretend they’re in a rock band (tuned-up instruments always available), and speak the brutal truth to each other, even about their sexual relationships.  Yes, they are cheerleaders for each other’s lives.  The trouble is, that sparks an argument with Zooey about what’s OK about their relationship to share with others, when his rebuttal is that she talks about him to her friends all the time.  Aside from the raunch humor, the film brings up a serious issue about male friendships, and how difficult it is for a lot of guys to sustain them.
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)      Is it more difficult for men to develop “guy friends” than for women to have friends of the same gender?  Why?
2)      What causes people to hit bottom, and then continue to bounce along the bottom, without being able to figure out an exit strategy?
3)      Is cheerleading a sport?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Texas