Having missed Sunshine Cleaning in the theater, I was really looking forward to the DVD.
The film seemed to have a lot going for it: the adorable Emily Blunt, the intriguing Mary Lynn Rajskub, the indie-ness. I knew they had toned down the gay, but I was willing to overlook that. So when the DVD arrived in the mail, I happily popped it into the player.
When Emily Blunt first showed up, I was all, “Hey, she’s obviously an open-minded gal!”
And then Mary Lynn Rajskub showed up, and she was all, “Hey, I’m an open-minded gal!”
And then they disappeared for a while. And then they were all, “Hey, let’s do this thing!”
But they didn’t. Or actually, according to the DVD commentary, they did — there was more flirting and a brief relationship, and maybe even some actual kissing — but we didn’t get to see it. Why aren’t the deleted scenes on the DVD, at least? Ugh. (I found one photo that seems to be from a deleted scene, but it’s not very exciting.)
It all adds up to a mere 11 minutes of screen time, and I’ve cobbled them together for you so you don’t have to suffer through the whole film. (Spoilers galore, of course! In fact, here’s a little spoilery background, if you want this to make sense: Emily Blunt plays Norah, one of the Sunshine Cleaners who scrub up the mess left behind at crime scenes and demises in general. While cleaning up after the death of an elderly woman, Norah finds a picture of Lynn, played by Mary Lynn Rajskub. So Norah sets out to find Lynn to make sure she knows that her mother has died.)
Isn’t that a disappointing 11 minutes? More like Sunshine Teasing. Reminds me of the days when I had to cling to a four-second kiss in a movie like Black Widow. I thought the lean years were behind us. (Except for Grey’s Anatomy, of course.)
Of course, the lesbianish scenes weren’t the main focus of Sunshine Cleaning. The movie aims to tell the story of working women (it was based on the stories of two real-life crime scene cleanup gals). But it doesn’t do that very well either. We get glimpses of the main character’s struggle to break out of the pink-collar ghetto, but she mostly battles herself and her own family, rather than The Man. Nothing feels very triumphant.
To cheer myself up, I turned to a different DVD about working women — you might call it the ultimate movie about working women: 9 to 5 (the Sexist, Egotistical, Lying, Hypocritical Bigot Edition).
Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin are divine. They did the DVD commentary via conference call (which destroyed my visions of a pot-fueled gigglefest like the one they have in the movie), but it’s obvious that they still have great respect and fondness for each other. In the commentary and the "Nine @ 25" featurette, Jane Fonda notes that after seeing Lily’s one-woman show in the late ’70s, she fell “passionately in love” with Lily. Who wouldn’t? She was quite a dish back in the day.
(She still is — just ask Meryl.)
It’s sad, though, how relevant 9 to 5 still is. Yes, working women have more respect (and more money) now, and things like job-sharing and daycare are realities at some companies. But a lot of us are still dealing with sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot bosses.
Who’s going to take the feminists-on-film baton from Jane, Lily, and Dolly? Not that we don’t still have those three — they’re definitely still going strong. Lily Tomlin recently scolded Kathy Griffin for using the word “douche” as an insult (Lily gently pointed out that it’s degrading to women). And Jane Fonda tweets some of her activism to the masses now, and still works with groundbreakers like Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem. Meanwhile, Dolly recently gave 9 to 5 new life — mostly courtesy of the suited deliciousness of Allison Janney — on Broadway.
We could still learn a lot from the “old guard.” And that includes the men of 9 to 5 too — especially co-screenwriter Colin Higgins, who also wrote Harold & Maude. The people behind Sunshine Cleaning should watch his stuff again and take notes, because they don’t quite know how to be quirky or funny or … well, just plain interesting.
Enough grousing. Dolly, sing us out! I think Emily Blunt and Mary Lynn Rajskub would join in if they could.