Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin
This movie has gotten a lot of buzz this year, once warmly received the film buff community seems annoyed it got a best picture nomination. Not surprising, this isn’t traditional best picture fair but it is nice that a comedy is getting some recognition from the academy. Qualms aside, on to the actual movie.
Olive Hoover wants to be a beauty queen and it seems that all her dreams have come true when she gets a call saying she’s eligible to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. So, she, her mom, dad, uncle and brother pile into their yellow VW van en-route to California. This is a character driven ensemble, each member of the family having a distinct role and personality. Frank (Steve Carell) , the foremost Proust scholar in the US as he constantly remind everyone, is back from a tryst in the hospital after trying to kill himself. Dwayne (Paul Dano) is the depressive teenager who reads Nietzsche and has taken a vow of silence until he can retire from his parents home and join the air force academy. Richard (Greg Kinnear) is the husband, despretly trying to sell his motivational program of the nine steps, Sheryl (Toni Collette) probably the most “normal” of the bunch is just trying to keep everything together and please her family at the same time, the caustic heroin snorting grandfather (“Sleep with a lot of women kid, not just one, a lot”) and finally Olive herself, arguably the most innocent of the characters. Abigail Breslin gives a beautiful and natural performance in the titular role. The film does have a lot of convention about it, namely the “quirky indie movie” atmosphere. But it makes up for this by being genuinely hilarious, the last scene in particular had be rolling on the floor the first time. There is a lot of this film that is real, those being mostly in the details. In the beginning for instance, around the dinner table when Toni Collette’s character is handing around glasses. Mismatched plastic juice cups, some from McDonald’s. This seems very real, I’ve yet to see a house containing small children without glasses like that. There are also some nice connections made in the film, that between Dwayne and Frank comes to mind.
I enjoyed the look of the film as well, all bright colours with beautiful but simple cinematography. Overall this is a lovely and affecting film more than worth a look.