Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, August 14, 2006

Let Little Miss Sunshine brighten up your day!

I know this is Bad Movie Month but I wound up seeing a really good film this weekend(don't worry,I have a slithery stinker for BBM coming up on the horizon). Little Miss Sunshine is an ensemble film about a family trip that's even more crazed than usual with the Little Miss Sunshine pagent as the destination.

Meet the Hoovers;desparate dad Richard(Greg Kinnear)who is keen on selling his 9 point motivational plan,mom Sheryl(Toni Collette)the determined peace keeper,silent son Dwayne(Paul Dano)who plans to become an Air Force pilot,Grandpa(a ribald Alan Arkin)who is not shy about giving his uncensored opinions and snorts heroin on the side. They've been recently joined by Uncle Frank(Steve Carell)who is recovering from a suicide attempt and doesn't hesitate to remind everyone that he is the "number one Proust scholar." The heart of the family and the film is Olive(Abigail Breslin),a sweet natured seven year old who dreams of beauty pagents and is given the chance to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine one due to the first place winner getting knocked out of the running.

Even tho the family finances are tight,going to the pagent means everything to Olive so off the Hoovers go,in a blindingly yellow van that breaks down so much that everyone has to push it to start and then race to get inside. Other obstacles pop up along the way such as a sudden death,a chance discovery that affects someone's future plans and certain realizations before the big climax of Olive's pagent performance.

What's so great about this movie is the strong family dynamics at work here;one key scene has Richard try to talk Olive out of having some ice cream at a restaurant, with worries about her weight. When the ice cream arrives and she rejects it,the rest of them start to all dig into it which is just a ploy to help her get over Richard's negative comments that works like a charm. A nice way to set up everyone's character without going overboard.

Richard is not made into the villian here,rather his attempts to make his plan sell and to project the image of being a "winner" only shows his true vulnerabilties. Despite whatever probelms the Hoovers have,at the end they rally together and give each other the support that's needed. This may sound like a major sapfest but it's not in the least. The humor is low key at times and loud at others but never vicious.

The cast is so wonderful here-Steve Carell plays his part well in tune with Kinnear,Collette and the rest. Everyone blends their talents to balance out the story without any showboating. The real breakout performance here is Abigail Breslin as Olive;forget Dakota Fanning,please! This girl is the future Kristen Dunst,a charming but no-way-in-hell-cutesy child star. Her big pagent"routine" is something you have to see to believe. One of the damn funniest things I've seen this year onscreen and a nifty bit of social satire to boot.

Little Miss Sunshine is in limited release at the moment but due to get a wider one soon(click the title link for more info). This is one movie that truly lives up to it's hype and will put you into a good mood as you leave the multiplex,still smiling at the thought of Olive's serenely sincere routine.


PJS said...

I really, really enjoyed this movie. Lots of laugh out loud scenes, and some real angst too. I thought the silent teenaged son did an amazing job; his "transformation" scene (hope that wasn't a spoiler) is perfect.

Even though it devolved into blatant zaniness toward the end, I thought it was terrific.

Anonymous said...

Lady T, this movie is SO on my list. It hasn't opened where I am yet, but I can't wait. Thanks for whetting my appetite!

lady t said...

I agree,PJS,that the "transformation" of Dwayne is great-perfectly timed and executed. I'm glad Little Sister and I chose LMS over the Ricky Bobby movie:)

Robin,you're welcome and hope you get to see it real soon. This movie will be on my top ten list of best movies of the year,definately!