Little Miss Sunshine

February 11, 2010
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Your browser may not support display of this image. It was voted Best Film of the Year by the Producer’s Guild, Best Ensemble Cast by the Screen Actors Guild, and Best Original Screenplay by the Writers Guild. It boasts four Oscar nominations, including that of Best Picture, and has two Oscar wins under its belt for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Considering the craze attached to the name, how can you go into watching Little Miss Sunshine without holding high expectations?

This quirky indie “dramady” follows a dysfunctional family’s road-trip to California to enter their little girl, Olive, in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Meet the said family. There’s Olive’s father Richard who works as a motivational speaker and constantly preaches about having a “winner’s attitude.” Ironically, he is a flop at his job and scarcely makes enough to support his family. Furthermore, he and his stay-at-home wife are barely on speaking terms with one another as they battle financial and family issues. Moving on: Frank is Olive’s dejected uncle. He used to be a renowned Proust scholar, but attempted suicide after a failed relationship with one of his male students, and now he is staying with Olive’s family until further notice. Her brother Dwayne hates the world and has declared a vow of silence until he reaches his goal of becoming an Air Force pilot. Lastly, there’s the foul-mouthed, heroin-snorting grandpa who coaches Olive in her dream to become Little Miss Sunshine.

While the characters may sound like bad caricatures of eccentricity, the kinds of chaos they create together are all too laughable and make them all too loveable. The first scene of them together on their yellow bus shows Grandpa Edwin advising Dwayne to get with as many girls as he can – especially before he reaches eighteen (and can consequently get arrested for picking up jailbait). Each of Richard’s attempts at quieting him is only mirrored by yelling and curses. You will come to realize that this is a fairly typical scene of the movie, but is also arguably one of the funniest.

The stand-out roles are Frank (Steve Carell) and Grandpa Edwin (Alan Arkin). Steve Carell plays his part so believably that it becomes hard to imagine him as “that-one-guy-who-played-the-40-year-old-virgin.” His dejectedness and idiosyncrasies come out naturally and they make into one of the most charismatic characters in the film. The type of humor found in Grandpa Edwin is rather different than what’s found in Frank’s character. The former always has a bon mot, or ten, on hand and his inappropriateness is utterly hilarious.

While this film’s plot is shaped around instability, mayhem, and capricious circumstances, it can make you feel great about life. Watch as this seemingly incompatible family discovers that they have more in common with each other than just blood-relation. The comic (sometimes darkly so) portrayal of times when it seems like it’s only raining under your umbrella will bring laughs by the busload, and you’ll come out of it wanting to give your relatively normal family a hug.

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Karen(: This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm
This was a really great review! Little Miss Sunshine is one of my absolute favorite movies :) My favorite character is probably Frank, but it was one of those movies where you just have to love all of the characters.
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