And now, here's Little Miss Sunshine. You're not quite sure what you're in for during the Sundance-touting trailer as you see snippets of a family dinner. You know they are going to be quirky, based on their remarks and the quick cuts. You also know the acting will be dependable because of the stellar cast, including Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, and Alan Arkin. Plus, it's got a cute girl with glasses you know you're going to cheer on because the title is based on her.
Combining these reliable creative forces with outstanding dialogue and appropriate timing, Little Miss Sunshine is an engaging experience. Co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris not only make a long dinner scene interesting, but an interminable drive through a visually boring landscape also never gets old.
Little Miss Sunshine is the road trip story of how little seven-year-old Olive gets to a competition she's been trying to reach for years, the titular subject. Normally each member of the family has their own self-centered focus, but Olive's achievement of acceptance takes precedence and they pile into the car to spout wit aplenty and deal with themselves.
Everyone has their own fault or weakness, of course, and each comes to light in its turn, with an intelligent grace instead of an easy resolution. For instance, when Richard's (Kinnear) book deal does not come across as planned, his verbally horny father (Arkin) gives a brief acknowledgement of his efforts, which is stilted due to lack of practice but no less sincere. Richard's response matches it, quietly but no less thankfully. The entire film has this wonderful balance of handling emotional issues without ever getting precious or melodramatic.
Olive (Abigail Breslin) is thankfully not the perfect child, either. One of the first comments she makes is to her uncle, who recently attempted suicide (Steve Carell) because of an unrequited, homosexual, affair, which she calls silly. Also, instead of making her say something cute, she simply places her arm around her brother's shoulder to make him rejoin the family after an outburst.
Little Miss Sunshine is enjoyable because it's moving without being pedantic, it's funny while being honest about how family members treat each other, and it takes everything about being human with a smart affection sorely lacking in current filmmaking.
DVD extras include two commentary tracks, alternate endings, and a music video.
You can steal her sunshine.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th August 2006
Box Office USA: $59.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $100.3M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight
Production compaines: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Big Beach Films, Bona Fide Productions, Deep River Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 189 Rotten: 19
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Screenwriter: Michael Arndt