Little Miss Sunshine
is HANDS DOWN the best movie I have seen in...2-3 years. First of all, the cast is amazing: Toni Colette
(also recently in The Night Listener
), Greg Kinnear
(who did an amazing job in that Bob Crane biography movie Autofocus
, and Steve Carrell
(who has really made a name for himself in the stupid-movie genre that most often includes Will Ferrel, and is also in the American version of The Office
are amazing as the adults in a completely disfunctional family whose daughter, Olive (played by Abigail Breslin
), is this totally awesome pageant-obsessed eight year old with huge glasses and a hilarious relationship with her bum of a grandfather (Alan Arkin). Her brother (Paul Dano
, who will be in Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation
with Greg Kinnear) is a tortured Nietzsche-reading teenager who has taken a vow of silence and literally not spoken for 9 months. When Steve Carrell's character (uncle Frank) tries to off himself and is taken in by the family, they all go on a road trip from New Mexico to Rodondo Beach, CA to take Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Let me repeat this again: a crazy heroin-snorting grandfather, a neurotic mom, her suicidal brother, a motivational-speaker dad, a non-speaking teenager, and a very very cute little girl go on a roadtrip together in a VW minibus. There are too many awesome things that happen along the way, and I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, but there was really never a dull moment with this movie.
A few things I especially appreciated:
-There is very delicate treatment of the issue of body image. The movie opens with Olive mimicking contestants on a Miss America pageant, but immediately we see that she is anything but a Jon Benet. Her character is definitely one of the most interesting because as the story unfolds, we get a sense of the unadulterated self-confidence of a child her age who really feels like she can do anything. The denouement
, near the end (trust me--you'll know it when you see it), gives really appropriate closure to this idea, especially as Olive is juxtaposed against the creepy little pageant girls being gawked at by child molesters during the pageant. Seriously-I used to watch Miss America all the time, but there is something incredibly strange and sad about seeing little girls dolled up to look like their Dallas Trophy Wife mothers. Ugh.
-Character development. The main reason there is never a dull moment in Little Miss Sunshine
is because the characters are so dynamic. Each one undergoes a complete transformation, while doing a couple of uncharacteristic things here and there that keep the story interesting. Uncle Frank is probably the least dynamic character, because he is such a subtle individual, but even then, his antics produced quiet a few laughs.
-The end. I can't say anything without giving it away but I will say that I was in a huge theater full of people who all swore they nearly peed their pants. I definitely think this movie is going to replace or at least enter the funny movie rotation that is now pretty much occupied by The Birdcage
GO SEE IT NOW. You will not regret it.