Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Some movies just beam like a right ray of sunshine. “Little Miss Sunshine” doesn’t start off as one of those movies. The Hoovers aren’t your average American family. Dad Richard (Greg Kinnear) is a motivational speaker who lives and breathes his work, much to his family’s disgust. His wife, Sheryl (Toni Collette), has to take care of her brother, Frank (Steve Carell), who recently attempted suicide. Dwayne (Paul Dano), their teenage son, has taken a vow of silence until he reaches his goal of becoming an AirForce pilot. And their young daughter, Olive (an Oscar-nominated role for Abigail Breslin), is being trained for a beauty pageant by her eccentric Grandpa Edwin (an Oscar-winning role for Alan Arkin), who has been living with the family since he was kicked out of a nursing home for improper behavior. When Olive finds out she’s made the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, the whole family has to make the trip across three states in their VW Van. Together. With their various personalities clashing in heartbreaking and hilarious ways.
“Little Miss Sunshine” is a simple movie on the surface. But it doesn’t take a ton of plot to make a stellar movie. Its Oscar-winning original screenplay, from Michael Arndt (“Toy Story 3,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”), relies more on its second layer than its first. The Hoovers put the “dis” in “dysfunctional,” and the dark and sardonic humor sometimes means the laughs come with feelings of guilt. You’ll laugh anyway. It’s also heartbreakingly dramatic, as the family begins to loosen at the seams when trying truths are discovered. You might find yourself on the verge of tears like I did. Let it happen. “Little Miss Sunshine” sometimes seems like a cruel puppeteer playing with your emotions. You’ll find the ending all the more uplifting – life-affirming, even – if you lose yourself in the emotional ebb and flow. If your family is stressing you out (and, let’s be honest, it happens to the best of families), watch “Little Miss Sunshine.” It’ll show you that 1) Your family isn’t so crazy after all, and 2) Even if they are, they’re still family. “Little Miss Sunshine” is the embodiment of ohana. Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten (thanks, “Lilo & Stitch”).
An incredible ensemble cast (with 1 Oscar win and 6 additional nominations between them) gives a slew of top-notch performances. No wonder it won the Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Cast (beating movies like “The Departed” and “Dreamgirls”…sorry, ‘Yonce). “Little Miss Sunshine” nearly perfects the dramedy. And I f*cking love a good dramedy.