Saturday, 19 September 2020
Little Miss Sunshine
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 21:39

Little Miss Sunshine Lights Up the Screen

For this review I took advantage of the opportunity to view a film that I was surprised and happy to see in our neck of the woods. Little Miss Sunshine is a small budget “festival” type film that is enjoying great reviews and similarly great audience feedback. When I heard it was finally here in NB, I couldn’t wait to find out what all of the hubbub was about!

Little Miss Sunshine is one of those rare movies that examines heavy issues such as depression, drug use, and suicide but miraculously doesn’t get bogged down in melodrama. It’s hard to cover all these topics on film and not end up with Requiem for a Dream, but this movie manages to do it all and remain a highly enjoyable comedy.

The story focuses on a very dysfunctional family whose patriarch (Greg Kinear) is a motivational speaker. Or rather, he is striving to be a motivational speaker with his patented “Nine Steps to Success” program. His wife Sheryl (Toni Collette) struggles to keep order in the household for the sake of their two children. Teenaged Dwayne (Paul Dano) has taken a vow of silence until he realizes his goal of attending flight school, but secretly it’s a convenient excuse not to talk to his family. Hopeful and innocent Olive (Abigail Breslin) wants nothing more than to win the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Add to this mix a crass Grandpa (Alan Arkin), and Frank, a gay depressed uncle who has recently attempted suicide (Steve Carrell).

Now that the introductions are over let’s get on to the meat of the movie. Basically the family winds up on a long road-trip to California so that Olive can compete in the pageant. None of them can stand each other, but are forced to interact in the confines of the family’s Volkswagen Van. The van is falling apart as fast as the family and causes is the key to a lot of hilarious scenes.

The family members all think that the only thing they have in common is their love for Olive. The little girl truly is a ray of sunshine not yet dulled by the troubles of her family. But as the trip progresses they realize that each of them has had hopes and dreams that have been dashed. In a nutshell this movie is about accepting failure and moving on.

The amazingly talented cast is simultaneously low key and high profile. Most people know Kinnear and Collette, both Oscar nominees. Steve Carrell is becoming a household name with his success in The Office and The 40 Year Old Virgin. This role solidifies his claim as a comedic actor who doesn’t need to pander for laughs but can simply allow the material to take the spotlight.

Little Miss Sunshine is an enjoyable and original film that is a refreshing change from the usual summer offerings. It’s a darkly funny drama that just might make you think that your family is pretty normal after all!

I give it 8 out of 10.