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Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Little Miss Sunshine (a cinematic hug and a tickle)
Little Miss Sunshine appears to be another in the latest batch of comedies with a quirky tone and long silences, but it's actually quite conventional and crowd pleasing. It's the story of a family traveling miles together to enter their little girl into a beauty contest called Little Miss Sunshine.
The family consists of the dad Richard (Greg Kinnear), a success driven motivational speaker, Sheryl (Toni Collette), a tired, patient mother, the Granpa, (Alan Arkin), a world weary heroin addict, Shreyl's brother Frank (Steve Carell) a gay manic depressive suicide case, Dwayne (Paul Dano) a moody teenager who has taken a vow of silence until he gets accepted into the Air Force and Olive (Abigail Breslin) a cute, caring 6 year old girl who wants to be Little Miss Sunshine.
The strongest element of this film is the characters, they're all beautifully rounded, likable and excellently portrayed by an astounding cast, each one perfectly complimenting the other, it's hard to say who stands out, Toni Collette is perfectly cast as the long suffering supportive wife and mother, with an American accent you can't fault (she's Australian)you'd be forgiven if you are reminded of Frances McDormand. Greg Kinnear is also reassuringly restrained with a character that could be so over the top, with his rants about winners and losers, he's likable but frustrating. Alan Arkin is hilarious yet pathetic with his inappropriate advice and heroin snorting but close relationship with his granddaughter. Steve Carell is once again there's a thin line between comedy and tragedy, as he is in the long line of comic actors to impress in a mainly dramatic part. Paul Dano also does excellent work a character that could have tired easily, a moody teenager who doesn't speak is hardly the most original character but you actually see things from his point of view and you sympathise when it all crumbles around him. And finally without sounding clichéd, the little girl, Abigail Breslin really is the star of this film, cute but realistic cute, not in a kids say the darnedest things way, she seems to be the bond that ties these people together, particularly seeing as she's the reason she is the reason they're on this trip in the first place, but she looks at each of the characters with unjudging eyes and loves them whether she's making them feel better or innocently questioning them, the scene where she asks Frank why he tried to kill himself is a stand out. Her innocence is portrayed perfectly when she laughs at the fact that he was in love with a boy, proclaiming it silly, it's a performance to rival Dakota Fanning, Drew Barrymore and any other child actress you care to mention.
It's beautifully shot film, bright yellows and vast scenery, lush but not over stylish, surprising considering directors Johnathon Dayton and Valerie Faris previous work is mainly music videos.
A great debut script from a Michael Arndt, who's only previous film work seems to be assistant to Mr. Broderick on Addicted to Love, there's hope for all of us. The writing is both touching and funny, some of the more obvious comedy scenes however such as sneaking out of the hospital, the cop finding their porn stash and the dance scene at the end seem a little tacked on to up the belly laugh factor and distort the smooth flow of the film.
Overall it's sweet and funny, with excellent performances from all the cast, complimenting brilliantly written characters.
of course it's self indulgent...
Just saw that the main negative comment people are saying about this film is that it's self indulgent, well of course it is, its a filmmaker telling the story of what it was like growing up with a mentally sick mother, what best way of giving insight into this than to show how that would effect the personality of her son, if he has footage of himself giving these bizarre performances to camera and these strange films he made what type of film-maker would he be not to include them? all this seemingly self indulgent footage stems from his mother, its all related. its a fantastic film about the relationship between a disturbed mother and her sensitive and effected son. so show footage of the son. not to mention the open ending where your left wondering if the grandparents did those horrible things or is it the imaginary memories of a damaged brain. and apart from cuckoo's nest its the only other film i've seen that takes on the subject of electro shock therapy and the possible negative results. a lot of emotion for $218. feck it even if it was terrible he deserves kudos for making a feature documentary with so little money, fair play to him