Little Miss Sunshine
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
scr Michael Arndt
with Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano, Beth Grant, Wallace Langham, Paula Newsome, Bryan Cranston, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Matt Winston
release US 26.Jul.06, UK 8.Sep.06
06/US Fox 1h41

The Hoovers hit the road: Collette, Breslin, Arkin, Dano, Carell and Kinnear

carell arkin dano


26th Shadows Awards
Abigail Breslin

Little Miss Sunshine It's a rare family road trip comedy that's consistently hilarious, engaging and resonant. An especially sharp cast, knowing direction and a biting script make this a must-see.

The Hoover family is a rat's nest of expectations and awkwardness. Richard (Kinnear) can't get anyone to notice his nine-step Refuse to Lose programme, while Sheryl (Collette) can't get her family to be honest with each other. Nietzsche-obsessed 15-year-old Dwayne (Dano) has taken a vow of silence until he escapes to the Air Force, and too-normal 7-year-old Olive (Breslin) is determined to win a beauty contest in Los Angeles. Add Richard's foul-mouthed dad (Arkin), evicted from his nursing home for using heroin, and Sheryl's Proust-scholar brother (Carell), recovering from a suicide attempt. It's a long drive to L.A.

There are a couple of contrived missteps in the story, but the film otherwise treats its quirky characters as real people. The opening dinner table sequence is a brilliant jumble of everyday humour and sarcasm tinged with uncomfortable silences and barely submerged misery. We quickly understand these people's desires and loathings, their private vices and deep-rooted affection, and the way they get on each others' nerves. In other words, it's a bracingly recognisable family.

The actors dive headlong into their roles. These are messy, obsessive people who know each other far too well. Collette holds the family together with a brilliantly detailed performance, while Kinnear plays to his strengths as a severely compromised good buy. Arkin has the scene-stealing foul-mouthed grandpa role, but avoids cliches at every turn. Carell plays effectively against type as a guy trying to rediscover the will to live. And both Dano and Breslin are simply perfect. Even the small side characters resonate.

Despite some corny plot turns, the film remains firmly grounded, finding humour in honest interaction and authentic personalities. We can identify with each person in the story--especially the way they all have dreams far bigger than they are. And directors Dayton and Faris mine the comedy and emotion in each scene without ever going for the obvious. Family comedies aimed at grown-ups just don't get better than this.

cert 15 themes, language, drugs 28.Jun.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Little Miss Sunshine Little Miss Sunshine Little Miss Sunshine Mike, Massachucetts: 5/5 "I watched this movie a month ago and it still makes me laugh in my head today. I am 26, I watched it with about 10 other people all over the age of 45 in a large auditorium. I have never heard 10 people laugh so much in unison, it was crazy! It is by far the best movie I have seen this year. It is a road trip movie with a dysfunctional family, but it's one that does not get cliche and repeat all the things that have been done in other road trip films. The charcters are extremely well developed and u can relate to all of their dysfuncctions in one way or another. Abigail Breslin is perfect as the young 7 year old who is pursuing going after her dream of being a beauty pagent champ. Alan Arkin has one of the funniest scenes in a movie that I have seen in some time, when he explains to Paul Dano some of the facts of life. By the time you get to the end of this film you have that happy feeling that this family will be all right if not still a little dysfunctional, and that puts a little smile on your face." (10.Jul.06)
2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall