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Review From the Past: Little Miss Sunshine

by Dallas
Little Miss Sunshine

“Little Miss Sunshine”, rich with characters working hard to get through their issues as a family and individuals, scores a B

The husband/wife directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris has an extensive production background in producing and directing commercials, music videos, and documentary films dating back to the early 80’s. With their story telling skills in fine tuned form, and a screenplay full of engaging characters, Jonathan and Valerie skillfully present a film with multi-layers about persons dealing with issues, both family and personal. Just enough time is spent cinematically and directorially on the actors’ performances to set a pace that is slow and deliberate, and brings one into the world of the Hoover family…

The Hoover family is firmly established at a dinner meal at the end of a particularly rough day for all family members. The Hoover’s live in Albuquerque, NM, not as upscale as they would like but with dreams of a better life to come. Richard (Greg Kinnear) is the dad. He’s a motivational speaker, although not as successful as he’d like, has a deal in the process for a book that could take his motivational platform to the next level. Sheryl (Toni Collette) is his wife. She’s the glue and the leveling anchor for the family. Their teen son Dwayne (Paul Dano) is a withdrawn unfulfilled youth who spends his time immerse in Nietzsche, is in to the ninth month of a vow of silence with aspirations of being an Air Force pilot. Sheryl’s brother Frank (Steve Carell) is a high profile academic wiz who failed an attempt at suicide after a break up with his male lover and is now in the custody of his sister during the final phase of rehabilitation. There’s Grandpa (Alan Arkin) and Richard’s father, with a vocabulary equal to a cussing sailor, regularly snorts his drug of choice in the bathroom, has been kicked out of the nursing home, and is coaching his young granddaughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) who’s the optimist with dream of winning beauty pageants to become a beauty queen.

The all important phone call comes letting the Hoover’s know that Olive has made the finals for the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in Redondo Beach, California. After heated discussions, disagreements, and capitulations, it’s agreed that all family members should go and plan the drive to the pageant. The Hoover’s take off in their 60’s ‘flower children’ style VW bus (minus the painted flowers & peace symbols of the 60’s). It’s a two day journey and one gets a sense of what the trip will be like when the bus develops a clutch problem early on and has to be pushed by the family to get it started each time they park it!

Directors Jonathan and Valerie balance the unconventional behavior, sometimes dark humor, and off-the-wall events with soul searching moments and don’t become overtly preachy with their ultimate message that each of us might have issues, the question is how far will we each go to understand and work them out. “Little Miss Sunshine” is a road movie, both literally and figuratively, that shows us that we all have to find our way in this erratic, out-of-our control world, to simply just live life. And, by the way, to never let go of our dreams…

Grade: B

Starring: Abigail Breslin * Greg Kinnear * Paul Dano * Alan Arkin * Toni Collette * Steve Carell * Bryan Cranston

Rating: R
Run Time: 101 minutes
Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

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