Film #17 on the 100 Movies Bucket List: Little Miss Sunshine
Little Miss Sunshine is a quirky gem of an indie film from 2006 that whilst a favourite of mine and Oscar-nominated, has likely flown below the radar for many mainstream viewers. Which is a huge shame as this is such a fun, heartwarming and enjoyable film
Directed by husband and wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine follows the life of the dysfunctional Hoover family from New Mexico. The Hoovers are a family of unfortunates, misfits and losers, and probably one of the most realistic family depictions you’ll ever see onscreen outside of reality TV. There’s Sheryl (Toni Collette), the harassed mum who keeps her family fed on fast food. Dad Richard (Greg Kinnear) who’s trying to peddle a failing business that focuses on teaching others the secrets to success. Grandpa Edwin (Alan Arkin), an ageing hippie with a drug habit that has been kicked out of his retirement home. Sheryl’s brother Frank (Steve Carell), a gay man currently recovering from a suicide attempt after his partner left him. Son Duane (Paul Dano) who’s goal to get into flight school has led him to take a vow of silence. And finally, there’s young daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin), whose obsession with beauty pageants leads the family to take a cross country trip in an ageing VW van to help her compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Along the way, the family encounter a variety of mishaps and events that can potentially change their lives.
The Hoover family for the most part are ridiculously lovable and this is entirely down to their flaws that they are so likeable. Aside from Dad Richard who has a number of questionable ethics and morals that demean others, the family and their unique quirky personalities are the main reason why this film is so enjoyable. And the fact that the entire family are all brought together by young Olive across the span of the film makes this incredibly heartwarming. Olive is an underdog and being realistic, not the type of girl who you’d see in your typical American beauty pageant, but you still find yourself rooting for her all the same.
The cast is fantastic and while you can always rely on Toni Collette, Alan Arkin and Greg Kinnear, it’s Steve Carell and Abigail Breslin that shine brightest. Until this, I didn’t think Steve Carell could do serious and especially not a role that I like. But he excels, bringing a sad, intelligent air to Frank and personally, I think this is his best role to date. And then there’s Abigail Breslin, a 9-year-old who steals the show and pulls the entire cast and film together. Together with a clever, well-written script, the cast pulls together a heartwarming and surprisingly funny film where emotions and family are key to an eventful road trip.
What I enjoyed the most about Little Miss Sunshine is that while the journey the family take is obviously most important, we do at least get the joy of seeing Olive enter the beauty pageant and this is such a fitting end to the story. There may be some slightly unbelievable or predictable events that occur across the journey (the police traffic stop being one), but ultimately you come out of this feeling incredibly satisfied and rather warm and fuzzy inside. One of the most enjoyable family road trip movies I’ve ever seen.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!