15 Little Miss Sunshine

9 Jun

After a brief hiatus, mainly involving just absolute astonishment at the results of the MTV Movie Awards, I am resuming my countdown of my 20 favorite movies. Today’s entry is “Little Miss Sunshine”,  a near perfect film in almost every aspect. Co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris portray such quiet desperation in the family of characters in a way very similar to Wes Anderson.

The film is about a family’s road trip to California to get their daughter (Abigail Breslin) to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Along for the ride is the Dad (underrated Greg Kinnear), as a struggling self-improvement program promoter, the Mom, Sheryl (Toni Colette), the Mom’s suicidal homosexual brother, Frank (Steve Carell), a foul-mouthed druggie grandfather (Alan Arkin), and a son, Dwayne (Paul Dano), who has taken a vow of silence until he gets into the Air Force Academy. Another character is the bright yellow hippie van which they drive around. Along the way they encounter many obstacles; the clutch goes out in the car, arguments, and each one of them seems to have a huge disappointment in their life occur along the way.

While the strong and fully developed characters (pretty hard to do for Dwayne who doesn’t speak for 3/4 of the movie) are the foundation and heart of the film, the other aspect which stands out is the use of color. Everything around them is bright and painted in such a loving light. The van’s color is even symbolic of the family. They are dysfunctional (kind of how hippie vans are), but wherever they go they are like a ray of sunlight (like the bright yellow van) and life  in a world of bland conformity. While such an exaggerated use of the color yellow might be seen as overkill, I believe that it plays well and never seems like too much.

Again, the characters are really what drive this film and its loving, humorous portrait of family life home. The struggles they go through in their relationships, work, and desires are easily relatable for just about everyone (except for James Cameron who doesn’t have a soul, because he sold it for a large pile of money). The most poignant part for me is watching when (spoiler) Dwayne finds out that he is colorblind and can’t get into the Air Force Academy. That one long F-bomb after taking the vow of silence is just so powerful. His immediate reaction is to lash out at everyone, but in the end he knows that he needs his family to get through. Plus, I am sure that all of us have that one long F-bomb moment in our lives.

The characters play so well with each other and the script has genius comedy woven so perfectly in the dialogue (or in Dwayne’s case, lack of dialogue). The physical comedy is great as well, especially the running gag of having everyone push the car to get it started and then jump in it like it is a bobsled. Again, it is a shameless, but pitch-perfect example of how they are moving along the highway of life and they all need each other to keep going and they won’t leave any behind (except Olive at a gas station).


5 Responses to “15 Little Miss Sunshine”

  1. Julie Petersen June 9, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    You talk about hippie vans like you know them. You don’t! Only those that have driven the huge boxy vehicles should talk. Such a great movie. I believe Jeremy and I were the only ones laughing in the theater. Definitely not a movie for everyone, but we love it.

    • Chris Petersen June 9, 2010 at 10:23 am #

      I do know hippie vans. The Dusenburys had one when we first moved to MD and we used to ride it back and forth to swim practice…so, yeah. I may no have driven it, but I sure got the experience of being in one.

  2. Jeremy Petersen June 10, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    Are you implying that Avatar and Titanic aren’t the best two movies ever? I think you’re a Communist who begrudges Cameron for effectively analyzing the marketplace as a way of making billions of dollars. Fern Gully–excuse me–Avatar rocks!

  3. Rick Petersen June 14, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Didn’t like the movie – I guess I’m one of those “not for everyone” people. I found it boring and nonsensical. I couldn’t even finish watching it. – – – Standing by for backlash.

    • Chris Petersen June 14, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

      Well, I am sorry to hear that. I don’t know what I could say that could sway you. I found it very engaging, but I could see how it might seem boring to some and its value system is a little out of whack. At its core though, it is a very sweet film.

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