LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
DIRECTED BY: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
STARRING: Greg Kinnear. Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin
GENRE: Black comedy-drama, Road
COUNTRY: United States
In Albuquerque, Sheryl Hoover brings her suicidal brother Frank to the breast of her dysfunctional and emotionally bankrupted family. Frank is homosexual, an expert in Proust. He tried to commit suicide when he was rejected by his boyfriend and his great competitor became renowned and recognized as number one in the field of Proust. Sheryl’s husband Richard is unsuccessfully trying to sell his self-help and self-improvement technique using nine steps to reach success, but he is actually a complete loser. Her son Dwayne has taken a vow of silence as a follower of Nietzsche and aims to be a jet pilot. Dwayne’s grandfather Edwin was sent away from the institution for elders (Sunset Manor) and is addicted in heroin. When her seven-year-old daughter Olive has a chance to dispute the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, California, the whole family travels together in their old Volkswagen Type 2 (Kombi) in a funny journey of hope of winning the talent contest and to make a dream
As stay-at-homes, spinning in their own eccentric orbits, the Hoovers are entertaining, if slightly oppressive. Once they decide to hit the road for California, though, the movie turns into an adventure with a convincing sense of urgency, and not just because of the tight deadline for registering Olive as a contestant. The dramatic engine is her heart-melting mixture of anxiety, expectancy and joy at the prospect of competing and, in the spirit of fatuous lectures from the father she heedlessly loves, winning. (The production also benefits from an evocative sound track, and from Tim Suhrstedt’s cinematography, which makes a low-budget film look stylish.)
Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette form the backbone of Little Miss Sunshine‘s skeleton, but their workmanlike performances are the least notable. Paul Dano does a lot with a role that robs him of dialogue, and Abigail Breslin (who made her debut in Signs) shows herself to be more capable than about 95% of the performers in her age group. She’s talented, understands her part, and avoids the terminal cuteness that afflicts too many portrayals by young actors. Steve Carell surprises by playing it straight. Unlike Will Farrell, who was awkward in his non-comedic turn in Winter Passing, Carell’s performance is unaffected. He gets some laughs, but not by doing anything outrageous or extreme. Finally, there’s veteran Alan Arkin, who steals every scene he’s in. Over the years, Arkin has honed his timing and means of delivery, and they serve him well here.
- Fantastic road movie.
- Main cast performance.
- Covers a lot of ground.
- Supporting cast performance.
SCORE: 7.5 / 10
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