Revisiting Little Miss Sunshine (2006) I was struck by how much, just like Juno (2007), the reception of the film has cooled in light of the pale imitations that studios started pumping out to cash in on its success. This is a shame, because as a crowd-pleaser of a film, with something for pretty much everyone, it is bloody hard to beat.
The film is a simple, but not sentimental, long distance journey taken so that the youngest member of a family can compete in a beauty pageant. The family is a bunch of misfits, from a foul mouthed grandad, a prick of a father through to a teenager who has taken a vow of silence. The car is a bright yellow, mechanically questionable kombi van which adds to the misfit feel of it all. The results of the film, like any great team, are far superior to the constituent parts that it is made up of. Along the way, there are little moments that give the film such charm – a homophobic old dude spotting a suicidal gay Proust scholar for a porno, and a note advising ‘go hug mum’. It’s a comedy that does credit to its road film roots, having the characters overcome a range of barriers, from the comical to the heartfelt. It also does not shy away from the fact, actually it totally embraces it, that kid’s beauty pageants are the weirdest thing in the history of the world. And the whole film is topped off by a dance sequence that may be the greatest and certainly most incisive in cinema history.
You know why both Little Miss Sunshine and Juno are really good films and all the shitty pale imitations are shitty pale imitations? Both of them have really exceptional and most importantly original scripts. This one is a weird script in some ways. It is simultaneously really artistic, no one would ever say a lot of these things, but despite that it also manages to be incredibly true to life. The film is also boosted massively by the fact that the cast is exceptional, and many of the cast are giving if not career best performances, then pretty close to it – Toni Collette, Abigail Bresnan, Steve Carrell (he has never been in the same ballpark of awesomeness as he is in this film), Paul Dano and Greg Kinnear for example. Carrel’s character is an interesting one to consider the film, and its merits through. There is a lot going on there, but really his character is a peripheral figure. It says a lot about the film and the script that a fringe character is so three dimensional and well written. That is also true of Dano’s character, who aside from one big (and crushing moment) is really in the background with Carrell, adding so much colour and surprising depth to the film. Even caricature characters like that of Alan Arkin are not only expertly written, they also manage to some how sit with the tone of the film with no jarring.
Little Miss Sunshine is hilarious filmmaking that also manages to make you both care and feel. If you think about it, there are not that many films you can say that about. If you have never seen this, then you are missing one of the truly great post 2000 films. And if like me you have not checked this out since its release, then it is well and truly time to take another look.
Verdict: Longneck of Melbourne Bitter
2014 Progress: 12/101