Little Miss Sunshine

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Published on: 2007.04.14

IMDb: Little Miss Sunshine
Wikipedia: Little Miss Sunshine
Rating: R
(Language, some sex and drug content)
Length: 101 minutes (1:41)
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Genre: Comedy, Drama
My Rating: 9 (of 10)

Looking for a different kind of movie? This one’s it.

Little Miss Sunshine is the story of a dysfunctional family determined to get at least one thing right in a crazy cross-country journey to a child’s beauty pageant.

Everything goes wrong along the way, including car trouble, the death of a grandfather, and the death of the father’s dreams.

Sounds like a cheesy road-trip comedy.

This is anything but.

The movie is charming without being too cute. There are no clichés, no special effects, and no wasted time in the plot progression.

The characters are introduced simply and quickly, and the entire story moves along quickly, but doesn’t feel rushed.

Greg Kinnear leads the cast as the single-minded father of the family. He’s developed a “Nine-Step Program” of success, and hopes to sell a book. Toni Collette plays the mother, who appears to be the only sane one in the bunch. Her character’s role is basically to provide stability.

Alan Arkin ably plays Kinnear’s father, a man who wishes he’d done more when he was younger. His main advice to his grandson (played by Paul Dano) is to “F*** a lot of women, not just one.”

Dano’s character is a teenager who’s kept a nine-month vow of silence, and hopes to someday be accepted into the Air Force Academy (he later learns he’s color blind, which destroys his dream).

Steve Carell is Collette’s brother, who’s just tried to kill himself. A genius and a scholar, he’s come down hard after losing a relationship and a job.

Abigail Breslin, though, is the main character you’ll be drawn to. She’s the little girl who’s dream drives the story of the movie. After placing second in a beauty pageant, she gets lucky and is accepted into the “Little Miss Sunshine” beauty pageant.

In order to get to the pageant on time, the family must drive cross-country in a beat-up Volkswagen bus. Carell can’t be left alone because he’s suicidal, and Arkin is the little girl’s dance coach (no one sees her routine till the end).

It’s hard for me (a non-professional critic) to pinpoint just what it is that I like about this movie. But the dialogue is original. The camera is up-close-and-personal most of the time. The mood is just right. The soundtrack is so perfect that you’ll never notice it. The cast is perfect, and every player fits the role.

The trek that the familiy takes is sad and painful, yet somehow exhilarating and hilarious.

Arkin certainly deserved his Oscar for best supporting actor, but any one of the others could have easily won it as well.

Low-budget? Yes. Independent? Yes.

Wonderful. Just see it; you’ll agree.

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