LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
In this day of formulaic films,
it's nice to see a movie that presents life the way it REALLY is. Just
about everyone has some form of a dysfunctional family, and the new film
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE shows us one that we can all relate to. Oh
sure, it isn't an exact representation of everyone's life, but there are great
characters here, and chances are you'll identify with at least one of them, if
not the situations they get into.
The film begins by introducing us to the principal players. Young Olive
(Abigail Breslin) dreams of becoming a beauty queen. Her father Richard
(Greg Kinnear) is looking to get rich quick with a motivational program he's
sure will be a hit. Her mother Sheryl (Toni Collette) is just trying to
keep her family together in peace. Her uncle Frank (Steve Carell) is
being released from the hospital after a failed suicide attempt, and coming to
live with her family. Her brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) has taken a vow of
silence, and is working out daily to get into the Air Force as a pilot.
And last but certainly not least, her grandfather (Alan Arkin) is trying to
adjust to living with her family, all the while facing a secret drug
addiction. With all these people together in the same household, things
are tense to say the least. Then an unexpected phone call comes.
Is appears that Olive has been selected to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine
beauty contest, being held in California. There's just one problem, the
only way to get Olive there is for the whole family to go. Frank can't
be left alone, Grandpa taught her the routine, and the van is a stick shift,
which Sheryl can't drive. So after a short debate, they all agree to hit
the road in hope of Olive achieving just a little bit of happiness. But
the road trip proves rather tough, with the van having shifting problems, and
Richard constantly on the phone trying to get his deal done. Can these
quirky folks survive each other long enough to reach Olive's goal?
I went into this movie not knowing what to expect. What I got is nothing
short of perfection. Music video directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie
Faris take us on a journey you won't soon forget, and never fall into the trap
of Hollywood sappiness. It's a slice of real Americana, served in a way
we can easily relate to. Gone are the feel good moments, and convenient
conclusions to dramatic circumstances. This film breaks the norm time
and time again, and it works beautifully. The performances are very
solid. Greg Kinnear shines, whether he's playing the overprotective and
sometimes insulting father figure, or dealing with a rather difficult business
deal. He's not as likable as we're used to, but that's not a bad thing.
Why? Because it's more real. Toni Collette plays the typical
American mom, trying to do the right thing, but often unsure what the answer
is. She's terrific here, which isn't a big surprise, as Toni has proved
herself a great actress many times before. Alan Arkin gets some terrific
dialogue as the grandfather, often getting the biggest laughs. He's
offensive and flawed, but we love him regardless. Steve Carell turns in
a fantastic performance as Frank. He's playing a brilliant gay man,
distraught over a would-be lover, and his failed suicide storyline allows for
layers you'd never expect an actor like him to get. He's so good playing
it serious, I sincerely hope he does more roles like this. Paul Dano
also has a challenging part, as he spends much of the film being silent, yet
convincingly conveys emotions in every scene he's in. The real gem here
is Abigail Breslin, who wins our hearts with every line she delivers.
Olive is so cute and so sweet, you can't help but fall in love with her.
The film explores interesting emotional scenarios. Subjects like how we
deal with death, and the rather controversial young girl beauty pageants, are
handled in a very unconventional manner. This is like a film we've seen
several times before, but with everything done different. At every
corner it breaks tradition, and in the end it all works. I felt like I
was watching something really special, and I truly hope others get a chance to
experience it. Line up the Oscars, this may just be the best film of the
year. No kidding.
BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of
1 to 10, 10 being best, I give LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE a 10!
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Little Miss Sunshine
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