Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
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Review Date: December 29, 2006
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Michael Arndt
Producers: Albert Berger, David Friendly, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Ron Yerxa
Greg Kinnear as Richard
Toni Collette as Sheryl
Abigail Breslin as Olive
To put it mildly, a “majorly dysfunctional family” jumps on board their broken down V.W. bus in order to travel overnight to a young girls’ beauty pageant, so that their youngest, the adorable Olive, could strut her stuff in the contest. As the family rides the road, many an oddity occurs to them, but we stick around and watch as the mess gets messier, yet we get more involved. And wait until you see this little girl’s final performance: a true surprise that left even my loudmouthed ass, speechless.
This has gotta be one of the weirdest “family bonding” movies ever, but you know what…it worked! It took me only about 10 minutes to fully get into each of this film’s kooky characters, and that’s saying a lot about the film’s writing, acting and certainly, its direction. With so many over-the-top characters, I can see some people writing this movie off as somewhat overreaching, as each of the family members seems to have some sort of dysfunction or another, and in the course of the couple of days we spend with them, almost everything including the kitchen sink seems to occur in their lives, but I simply connected to the texture and personalities of all of the people on board, as each one seemed to have something somewhat relatable about them, and when you’re watching a character-driven movie, that’s really the most important thing. Not to mention that many of the things that do ultimately happen to them, might seem a little “convenient” to be occurring over a period of a couple of days (this is the same issue that many people had with Paul Haggis’ CRASH, claiming that so many things connecting seemed “unbelievable”), but I know this is a movie and the idea behind the days’ actions are the more important thing, not its realism day-to-day. The emotions behind the events happening during this time might occur to us over a lifetime (not a couple of days), but the sincerity behind them felt real to me.

In other words, I realize that not all of these things can happen over a period of 48 hours, but you know what, life has a funny way of tossing curveballs your way when you’re least expecting it, and I think that point was made, quite eloquently, in fact. Despite the superficial cranky, unpleasant, morose and arrogant exteriors of some of the film’s lead characters, much like in real life, this flick peels off their layers as we spend more time with them, and ultimately, you know what…you realize that everyone has their own insecurities, but being part of a family, a “real family” that loves and cares and supports one another, is truly the most important thing when traveling through life. I hope that I’m not making this film sound too existential or anything, because it’s actually a fun little quick ride with a handful of interesting characters smeared over many a picturesque background, a delightful soundtrack and many a memorable moment – if you want to simply look at its surface, but I enjoyed it on both levels. I also have to provide some major ups to the lead cast with each member of the family really carving out a nice rendition of their person, especially Toni Collette, Steve Carell in a surprisingly understated performance, and the true glue that holds this entire movie together in both attitude and spirit, the uber-talented Abigail Breslin.

I wish I could bottle her character’s enthusiasm and blind optimism, turn it into a Cola and sell that shit online…I’d make a bundle! Seriously, this little girl gives us one of the more memorable performances of the year, not to mention, one of its funnier one-liners: “In the trunk of our car.” In the end though, it’s the movie’s heart that won me over completely with each character, even the heroin-sniffing gramps dropping their guard for at least a scene or two, and presenting the audience with the true meaning of family, despite any dysfunctions or basic disagreements that many members have with one another. People can learn a lot from this movie, if only they’d take the time to look beyond their own insecurities to see the…well, bigger picture. Bravo to all involved, particularly the obviously talented folks behind the camera, who were able to pull off the very difficult feat of combining real drama, emotion with farce and comedy. All in all, a true melancholic comedy delight!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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