Review Room

Book reviews and miscellanous thoughts

Little Miss Sunshine

Written By: amodini - Jul• 13•07

This is not your average “feel-good” film. It includes, among it’s cast an unsuccessful father (Greg Kinnear) who’s selling the “how to succeed” mantra, a depressive uncle (Steve Carell) who’s tried to commit suicide, a grandfather (Alan Arkin) who’s into drugs and foul language, and a self-willed-mute brother (Paul Dano) who hates everyone and is, to put it politely, an odd fish. The only sane character in this film is the mother figure, Sheryl (Toni Collette), who’s pulling together the whole family and helping this bunch of characters stay afloat. An odd combination for a comedy. No slapstick, no story to lend itself to humor, this is a dark satire, and the “funny” parts come in through the incongruity of the characters thrown together, and the situations they come across. I’ve been told humor is everywhere, but this film really finds it.

The main protagonist here, is Olive, played by Abigail Breslin. A kid in this house of odd people, she’s a normal little girl, with normal little-girl feelings and fears. When she’s selected as a contender for the “Little Miss Sunshine” beauty pageant she’s delighted, but the Mom despairs at ever being able to make it to the event. But one by one, the family members get on board, and decide to drive down together to Redondo Beach in an old beat-up van.

The movie progresses along with the journey. We get little asides into the lives of each person on board the van – the father figure Richard, is an unsuccessful motivational speaker on the brink of getting a book deal, the grandfather has been thrown out of his old-age home for bad behavior, and is prone to complaining about the food, and giving unseemly advice to his grandson. The grandson has taken a vow of silence until he reaches his goal – entrance into the Air Force Academy. Olive, who is loved by everyone (thankfully) is quite a sweet, normal little girl, bent upon winning the pageant with the talent routine her grand-father has taught her. The mother is just hanging in there fire-fighting.

They do reach their destination after a series of mishaps – the van acts up, a dead body comes into play – and Olive gets her shot at becoming “Little Miss Sunshine” despite an anal event organizer. Even though I’m appalled at the beauty pageant as it is shown – little girls all primped and coiffed – I’m not sure I’m clapping for Olive’s talent routine, and the forced exuberance that came along with it. Still, that doesn’t take away from the message the film is touting – that of being a family and standing up for one another.

The cast veritably sparkles. Be it Kinnear with his guilt-tripping his daughter about ice-cream attitude, or Carell with his remarkable, restrained performance as the scholarly, depression prone uncle, they were all wonderful with believable personalities and quirks. Breslin as the only kid in there is astounding as a guileless child.

The film has it’s down-in-the-mouth moments and it’s laugh-out-loud moments. People have told me they found it a trifle sad – it is, but who’s life when examined that minutely doesn’t have it’s shares of ups-and-downs ? To turn that around and look at the latent humor instead is genius indeed.

Life is one big gag. And this film is quite the gem it’s touted to be.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. […] Muriel’s Wedding (1994) : Toni Collette can certainly pick her movies. From the lovely “Little Miss Sunshine” to “About A Boy” to “Emma”, she brings grace and charm to every character […]

  2. The review is very every aspect of the movie….neither exaggerating nor low key.. i liked it…

%d bloggers like this: