Abigail Breslin in a fat suit

Little Miss Sunshine

Year: 2006
Directed By: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Written By: Michael Arndt

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie I haven’t looked forward to reaching in the collection.  It’s Amber’s movie, and I went along with it because I liked it well enough to concede to it having a place on our movie rack.  It’s been years since I have seen the movie and what’s funny is that as soon as we started the movie I found myself immediately sucked in.  That’s how it usually tends to be as we make this journey through the collection and that’s the point really.  We are making this journey through the DVD rack specifically to reconnect with these movies and remind ourselves of why we bought them in the first place.  This is a perfect example because while I have dreaded watching it, I immediately found myself enthralled and couldn’t look away.

I had started a second paragraph of this review discussing my reluctance to watch the movie on the pretense that it is just too depressing and bleak.  After re-watching the entire film I have gone back and deleted the paragraph because I couldn’t be more wrong.  This movie isn’t depressing, and in fact it is quite the contrary.  It’s uplifting and it’s a beautiful thing to see this family come together to overcome adversity.  Olive is the glue that holds them all together and it’s the love and respect they have for her that motivates them to overcome their own personal issues.  They are all depressed people faced with issues that are out of their hands but try to maintain hope despite that.  Whether they are broken-hearted and suicidal, past their prime and ready for the end, angry at the world and determined toward a dream that ultimately can’t be achieved, broke and unable to achieve the success desired, or just the mother that does whatever she can to hold them together.  They all have serious problems laid before them and it is the little sweet and innocent Olive that forces them all together and makes them a real family again.

The strength of this movie is in the story and in the cast.  At the center of that cast was the 10-year old Abigail Breslin who played her part flawlessly.  Dressed in a fat suit she took a lot of weight on her young shoulders and carried the film to a level it might not have reached with another young actress.  That scream of excitement when she gets the news from the Little Miss Sunshine pageant gets me every time. It’s the shrill excitement and reaction that can only come from a girl her age and she did a great job with it.  Another scene that always gets me in this movie is when she is the only one capable of consoling her half brother who has just realized all his dreams are out of reach.  She doesn’t even have to say anything to him; she just does the sweetest thing in the world and simply hugs him.  Of course there is also her dance at the end which comes out of nowhere and really caps off the movie in an awesome way.  Breslin has continued to work and is developing into a very good actress.  I look forward to what she has to offer in the future and will always remember this role fondly as the one who made her a player in the making.

The best role in this movie aside from Olive is the one turned in by Alan Arkin.  In fact he was awarded the Academy Award for the part in 07 for Best Supporting Actor.  Arkin is a fantastic actor who always does his job so effortlessly in so many films.  He delivered one of my favorite lines ever in this movie when talking about drug use.  He tells Dwayne that it’s stupid to do drugs when you are young but stupid not to do them at his age.  I think he has a hell of a point there and I really liked that mindset of his character. He is a crude and uncouth man but is still a great grandfather to Olive.  He does use drugs but he is just trying to get the most out of life before it is over and I think that’s pretty cool.

I’m not really a fan of Steve Carrell’s career in film; although I think he was great on TV. In most of the movies he makes he is just altogether too stupid or silly for me, but occasionally he shows us that he is better than that.  This is a film where he did just that and I thought he gave an excellent performance. I love the scene when they finally arrive late to the pageant and he runs ahead of everyone in an effort to get Olive signed up in time.  Here he is this man who is so disheartened and depressed he tried to take his own life and he is forced into this situation that oddly enough gives him something to live for.  Something he cares so much about he does everything within his power to make it happen, running all that way without stopping to get Olive’s name in before registration closed.

I really hate to do this a second time but……“Holy shit there is Dean Norris!” I am again baffled to see him when I never knew him before. Of course he is again playing a cop, go figure.  It seems to be his go-to thing but none of that matters at all anymore.  At this point I have only seen the first of the last eight episodes of Breaking Bad and all I can say is that Hank was pretty damn awesome in that episode. In this movie he is only on screen for a matter of minutes but still manages to be really funny.  I love hen he finds the porno mags and is completely distracted from the body in the trunk.  He flips through them with so much excitement until getting to the homosexual issue and doing a complete 180.

Greg Kinnear plays such a loathsome character in this movie that it made me start to dislike him as an actor.  As the dad he is doing the best he can but he is such a misguided and pretentious man.  The kind of guy that doesn’t have a problem throwing his own douche bag opinion on the table no matter what the issue.  The kind of man who has an unreasonable sense of self worth and the overbearing arrogance that goes with such. Despite his redeeming efforts later in the film I still can’t get on board with a guy who tells his daughter ice cream will make her fat in front of everyone. Later in the movie he really comes alive to make his daughter’s dream come true and that is really awesome.  It took a lot of balls to steal his father’s body out of the hospital, and then again to get up on stage and join his daughter’s dance.

One of my favorite things about this movie is how they have to push their car to get it started after it breaks down on the road.  In order to move forward they must work together as a family pushing it; I think the symbolism there is really clever. I like that the movie ends with one final scene of them doing this together to make the trip back home.  There is no telling what lies before them on the road but they are heading into it together, stronger as a family than they ever have been before.

I can’t even say enough about how surprised I am now and how foolish I feel to have dreaded watching this movie.  I don’t know what made me remember it so poorly but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching it again and will probably not wait as long before seeing it next time.  This is a wonderful movie and it stole the hearts of many of us in 2006.  If you haven’t seen it then you have been missing out.  This is a great movie with incredible performances that are worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Me, I bought this movie for Ryan. He was dreading this movie and I kept saying you must be remembering it wrong, this movie is amazing. It hits to every true part of the family paradigm. He, of course, got sucked in again. This movie is one of my favorites. It speaks volumes on the true nature of people. All families are really effed up in their own ways, but ultimately in the end, all you have is each other. Nobody loves you like your family loves you. They accept every messed up flaw. That is what this movie excelled at showing. It is more than worth your time.

littlemisssunshine

This is one of my favorite posters of all time. I have really been looking forward to it. It is like a breath of fresh air. It looks like it was created in Illustrator and not Photoshop for once. Not that Photoshop sucks or anything, but there are just way too many filters that are relied upon when it comes to movie poster designers. In any case, this poster is the epitome of what negative space importance is. It’s really ok to leave some breathing room around a big space like this. It almost leaves you more intrigued to read the rest of the poster. Anyway. I love this poster and this movie.

NEXT MOVIE: The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

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