Little Miss Sunshine (2006) dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin
“Little Miss Sunshine” is a delightful, comedy/road picture, which has been a hit in all stages of its life - starting off as a Sundance hit, then a mild box office success, multiple year-end awards/nominations and now a successful DVD release.
It deserves everything it gets, as its one of few uplifting films this year to receive all-around praise. “Little Miss Sunshine” is a fun respite from the serious downers of this year’s awards season, ie. “Babel,” “Little Children,” “Pan’s Labyrinth.” With no disrespect to these films, “Sunshine” will lift your spirits and give you a little piece of joy to get you through your day.
You know the story, a dysfunctional family travels the country so their precocious 7 year old can compete in a children’s beauty pageant. Each member of the family holds his or her own in terms of laughs. It’s a true ensemble, with neither one stealing anyone’s thunder. Greg Kinnear plays Richard, the ultra-competitive-motivational-speaker wannabe Dad, Steve Carell is a depressed suicide-attempting gay intellectual scholar Uncle. Alan Arkin is an “I don’t care because I’m old”, porn-loving, heroin-snorting grandfather. Paul Dano is the disaffected Nietzsche-reading teenager who has taken an oath of silence. Abigail Breslin is the Jonathan-Lipnicky-cute- but-not-gorgeous naïve daughter and Toni Collette is the rock, the mother who has to take up smoking to survive the chaos in the family.
The film follows a well-trodden formula of road movies, but it’s so genuine and sincere, everything works. There are half a dozen brilliant scenes and moments of hilarity. Dayton and Faris, whom we expect to ‘know their music’ based on their extensive music video work, adds pitch perfect songs to the soundtrack (a good way of introducing Sufjan Stevens to the mainstream).
Hopefully, this film will be Dayton/Faris’ “Bottle Rocket,” from which build a fruitful feature film career. (Wes Anderson, time to step back up to the plate)
I think the film just might win Best Picture Oscar as its gaining steam on the awards train than anyone else. It could be this year’s “Crash” – an accessible film everyone can love. Enjoy.