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'Little Miss Sunshine': A Relief after Rain

'Little Miss Sunshine', the name does not even begin to encompass the depth and reality of the storylines, the issues and
themes that are raised in this movie. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006) definitely sparks
a thought and kindles emotion in most audiences of all ages; not something you may expect from a film of the genre of road trip
and comedy/drama, often seen as just about having a laugh. Despite being a definitive film of that genre, it is clear that the
scriptwriter Michael Ardnt brought the story to life.
What makes the husband and wife directing team's hilarious film so successful is not that it's suitable for all audiences (cause it
isn't); but that it encourages the simple philosophy of what it is to be part of one. No matter how screwed up they may seem;
sometimes all you've got is each other and no family could appear more dysfunctional than the Hoovers of Albuquerque. They take
the definition of dysfunctional: 'a family in which conflict, misbehavior and abuse occur regularly' to a whole new level, involving
family members that raise controversial themes throughout this unique plot that include homosexuality, depression, drugs, teenage
rebellion and fraud.
Though these themes may seem exaggerated, the reason this movie is so powerful is that you will be able to recognize a part of
yourself or a kin in one or more of these characters. The Hoovers live in a modest, cluttered, run down house where dinner means
chicken in a bucket, yet they are encapsulated by fantasies of their own individual success that keeps them all locked up in their own
worlds, struggling to measure up to the high standards set by society. All these issues and themes are effortlessly delivered through
this hilarious yet moving story.
The film follows the family through a 900 mile trek, from their familiar home in Albuquerque to the daunting world of
california. This journey is frequently strewn with emotional challenges that confront the family with many hurdles thrown in to add
comical value by making life difficult, but not without a purpose. All this is put up with by the group of argumentative depressives,
in order to fulfill the luck begotten dream of Olive; the youngest of the Hoovers, who would do anything to receive the title of
Little Miss Sunshine in the beauty contest in California. As stay at homes, living in their own eccentric lives they are entertaining,
maybe slightly overwhelming, but once they hit the road for California, the movie turns into an adventure, with the family having
to work through an unbelievable amount of hardship within the space of three days.
Olive's passion and love for beauty pageants is the first thing we see in the first few minutes of the film. Her intent gaze from
the blue eyes on to the TV screen illustrates the way she studies the moment the winner is being crowned which further shows her
obsession with winning. This strong intro to the film also puts to context how society of America is influenced; played amazingly
by a young talent of Abigail Breslin, Olive successfully internalizes the purity, innocence and love for her family. Her naivety is
shown in the way her excitement is brought out; in the scene after she finds out by pure chance that she has become eligible to
compete in the beauty contest, she is oblivious to worries and the problems that she has unconsciously caused throughout the
family. Her naivety is only accentuated as her home is portrayed as being one of lower middle class background through the use of
hand held camera to aggravate the feeling of poor residence and the layout of her house. These uses of mise-en-scene and film
techniques show the resentful reality that Olive, though excited, is miles away from her dream of becoming a beauty queen.
Olive plays a key and demanding role throughout the movie; she is the focus that steer the family together, her great
personality that is shown by her determination and enthusiasm spills over to influence her family. Olive challenges the pressure on
woman; the way that they have to be skinny and gorgeous to be successful, this Ideology is amplified by 7-8 year olds concerning
themselves with this in the beauty pageant. Olive internalizes that challenge of the idea that young girls should be pretty and slim.
The family is also important in influencing her to be herself and not to be ashamed of whom she is, her self-esteem is the critical
development in her character through the journey. She may not be your typical beauty pageant contestant but her innocent and
naivety amongst the young girls wearing layers of make-up, spray tan and false eyelashes is like a beam of light on a stormy day.
Her determination that drives the family is demonstrated by the way she perseveres throughout her performance with her 'unusual'
dance, choreographed by grandpa (Alan Arkin) despite the clear oppressive atmosphere the audience is creating. It is no wonder
why olive brings her family together and is adored by every member.
Olive has a very close bond with grandpa, her 'coach' who spends hours working on her routine with her, and a character that
bursts the stereotypical bubble of old men being a mellow and boring character in the most spectacular fashion. Grandpa has been
excluded from the retirement home for snorting heroin and sleeping around. Despite these 'imperfections' grandpa's love for olive
and his family clearly shines through the veil formed by his loose mouth and carefree attitude. He consoles olive through her times
of doubt, pulls Richard through when he feels he has hit rock bottom and gives Dwayne advice, even if unwanted and slightly
unusual, "F*** a lot of woman, Dwayne." His role in the family could be seen as the foundation, a cornerstone; this is established
by the fact that, when he dies, the family is united by their sorrow and must come together in order to keep themselves from
crashing into a helpless heap and get through another devastating yet hilarious situation. Grandpa, even in his death, gives the
family the opportunity to become more wholesome and functional. His development of character is that when at first he seemed to
be self obsessed, not caring for anyone but himself, he turned out to be the most caring grandpa that you could want. The way Alan
Arkin beautifully juxtaposes the 2 sides to grandpa's character with clarity yet not without emotion is clearly visible to all
audience. It does not come as much of a surprise that he obtained an academy award for best supporting actor.
Olive's teenage brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) Intrigues and surprises the audience with his quiet and focused nature, going
against the stereotype society has on teenagers of being loud and an obnoxious nuisance. Stimulated by Nietzsche; he has taken a
vow of silence until he is accepted at flight school, adding a great new dimension to the film and makes it more interesting. Though
silent, he is rebellious in his own way, hating his family and everyone else; he isolates himself in his own quite bubble. He makes a
bond with Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell) who he can easily relate to as they are both shy and introvert characters. They both have

problems becoming part of the family and find it hard to tolerate them. As their bond grows in the movie, Dwayne's unique way of
communicating with pad and paper with Paul Dano's expressive acting helps us understand the character of Dwayne well without
the need of oral communication. Steve Carrell delivers his character in a hilarious yet intellectual way; his run for his example is
not only funny but seems to be quietly studied to perfection. It is not just a silly sped up walk, it is an authentic expression of
character. Frank's Jealousy of a fellow Proust Scholar who won a genius grant on top of stealing Frank's boyfriend and Dwayne's
redemption towards society compliment each other in a very original juxtaposition of emotions. This unique bond is what enables
the development of these 2 characters and make them realize that the answers to their problems were right in their heads, they just
needed to be brought out. They were like a vessel to each other through which these answers could be carried out. In Frank's case:
it is suffering that makes you who you are. In Dwayne's case: there is no need to let society bend and hinder you.
Paul Dano and Steve Carrell's great chemistry enables the audience to enjoy this serious issue in a very comical way while still
understanding the message that the director is trying to put across and in addition, this little subplot is a great way to add richness and
texture to the main plot of the film.
Richard, played by Greg Kinnear, is not the kind of father you may expect from a family drama, driven by his determination to
be a winner, he demonstrates how his ambitions contradicts the reality; being a total loser among loser's himself. Having devised a
nine step refuse to lose program, he dreams of success but only succeeds in deteriorating his personality with annoying catch
phrases that drive the family crazy. His obsession for winning is shown in the general way that he encourages olive: "there's no
point in competing if you don't think you're going to win." This pessimistic attitude seems to be what is tearing the family apart and
destroying their harmony. Despite this, he is an important character in the movie since he raises most of the issues and arguments in
Little Miss Sunshine, and though he may not be the best of examples for the children to aspire to, his development as a father
derives a strong message that is central to the film: Winning isn't everything.
On the other hand, Sheryl (Toni Collett) strives to be a good mother and tries to hold the family together, considering all
members as an individual and not a transport to experience the joy of winning. Though she keeps the family afloat financially, she is
at a loss as to how to keep the family from falling apart: a very funny element of the film. She is like a centre force that holds the
family together for long enough to last the movie and the person that shows care for her children. In Dwayne's distress, she showed
compassion and in olives time of difficulty, she gave her a choice. Toni's successful portrayal of mom strongly creates pathos for a
character worthy of empathy and one which adds an interesting contrast while accentuating the idea of a dysfunctional family by
being so helplessly lost as to what to do.
With such a great cast its easy to say that there is no 'best' actor in this movie; it is the unique collection of actors, their
chemistry and collaboration as a group that made the family so successful in delivering a very enjoyable film, while getting across
the many messages according to the director's wishes.
Cinematography is used so effectively in this movie. There are many ways in which camera shots, movements, diabetic and
non-diabetic sounds are used to enhance the audiences understanding and experience of a particular scene. For example; Close ups
are used on characters to enhance the way we experience their feelings, emotions and the shots at specific angles with organic
movement giving the illusion that we are part of the scene. The incongruity between the darker plots in the movie and uses of bright
lighting in the mise en scene, as well as realistic effect enabled by the camera, creates a sense of irony that prevents plots from
going too dark, enabling us to enjoy the film in a way that this kind of plot shouldnt. In addition, the use of sound and
cinematography gives the movie a quality that is documentary like; enhancing the reality of the issues raised in the movie. These
different uses of techniques are clearly visible through the film but especially more so in some places than others.
The scene at the start of the movie encompasses many different techniques that are used to give a clear yet concise introduction
to the family. To start with, when Frank is introduced to Dwayne and is told to sleep in his room, he looks down the corridor, and
there is a middle shot of franks smoldered by the walls, giving a sense that he feels trapped. During the meal and the arguments
about going to California, many close ups and hand held camera actions are used. This is to give a clear view of each characters
reaction to each other and how they relate as a family. The hand held camera allows the audience to feel as if they are part of the
family since very realistic and organic movement of the screen gives a great sense of actuality and enhances the scene for the
audience. Another example where this technique is used is at the hospital, where they plan to take grandpa out the window, close
ups now give a clear indication as to the characters determined faces, trying to work together and portrays the family as whole to be
a more functional. The hand held camera and unique movement again, gives a sense of reality and makes the whole scene a hell of a
lot more interesting.
Using these great actors, storylines and film techniques, the directors are trying to send out some clear messages and their aims
are seen in some of the key scenes in the film.
The issues of the U.S. American dream is addressed through the character of Richard, he is seen during the film as being
wanting to be successful; he is seeking the American dream: 'an American ideal of a happy and successful to which all may aspire.'
Well, he certainly kicked this explanation off the seat, as he himself is so largely unsuccessful. Through his horrendous quality of
life, he delivers the directors criticism towards the American ideology of a 'good' life. This criticism is brought out in a clear, deep
yet humorous way through Greg Kinnears great interpretation of Richard's failures and development when he begins to realize that
being a winner is not the meaning of life.
These developments of character not only apply to Richard but to other characters also, this is used to raise the importance of
family values. At the beginning of the movie, the family is presented as being seriously dysfunctional, almost unrealistically; they
all seemed to be wrapped in their own differences and refuses to try and relate to each other in anyway what so ever, resulting in a
constant stream of arguments. Like grandpa's hate for chicken 'Always the F***ing chicken', showing his inconsideration towards

the family's financial situation. It's no wonder that mother Sheryl struggles to hold the family together, completely overwhelmed by
the other member's contemplation towards each other.
The importance of family harmony is emphasized in the most unconventional and funny manner, through the breaking down of
their yellow mini van, they are forced to work together to get the van going, casting away their differences for a moment and
focusing on their similarities; their determination driven by olive's will to get to Redondo beach.
Many individual development occur also, like the way the Hoover's begin to see that they aren't so dysfunctional but have to
stick together in order to withstand the pressures and problems with society, holding out against it's attempts to judge and hinder
them. You could say that they began to respect their differences while rejoicing and working on their similarities; this is clearly
illustrated at the beauty pageant While the audience was pressuring olive in an extremely negative way, the family stood together, no
matter how embarrassing it may have been and supported olive throughout the performance. This illustrates in the most hilarious
way how the family grew throughout the trip as a whole and began to see themselves little by little as a part of one and not separate
individuals. The irony is that dad, who seemed to be most obsessed with winning and was the most irritating to their family, was the
first to support olive though it was clear that she was unwanted on stage.
Olive's controversial performance on stage and the naivety with which she delivers it, brings to height the artificial nature of
the other girls on stage and highlights the pressure that young girls face in this modern society, a pressure that is not only
implemented by society but also by their parents. The very nature of 7-8 year old girls dressing up in provocative clothes that are far
too mature for them is enough to sicken the audience, but olive's belly achingly funny performance mocks the idea of parents being
revolted by her while they are doing just the same thing to their own children.
The humorous ways that these messages and ideologies are being delivered by the directors not only allows you to realize the
issues and seriousness of it all but also enjoy it on the way.
Little-miss sunshine is enjoyable without being overscrupulous, it's funny while showing the truth about how family members
treat each other and it involves lacking in current film making: the theme about being human through personal affection. Michael
Ardnts script is genuinely heartwarming; he doesnt have to resort to emotional trickery and enables the cast to play off each other
perfectly. The movie is full of ups and downs, laughter and sadness. Richards profound need for success is what really made the film
interesting for me, as it adds a lot of humor and issues to the film. For other it may be grandpa's bawdy jokes entangled with sage
advice like "screw lots of woman". This film appears simple but there is an underlying sense of emotional complications, that keeps
building and building, adding layer upon layer of emotion to whatever situation the family goes through. Little miss sunshine is an
uneven journey of highs and lows but it never stops adding to that emotional crescendo when the family has it's chance to come
together.
This film lifts itself above others of the same genre by having enough accessibility to make it enjoyable and connectable with
almost anyone. This movie plays broad by taking a personal approach, hitting different notes that will affect every member of the
audience differently. How those issues and themes impact each viewer will differ but what makes it accessible is that this will affect
everyone. This film has definitely affected me to appreciate the values of family and made me more aware of the issues with society
and the problems I may need to try to avoid.
'Little miss sunshine' far outstrips the comedy 'meet the fockers' in a variety of ways. You know you have a problem when your
film starts with a dirty joke, a poop joke, followed by a random series of scenes that have nothing to do with anything. The humor is
so forced that at times becomes difficult to endure while the comedy in "Little Miss Sunshine" is effortless, true and funny with a
depth to it. It is at the very least, a situation comedy that rescues the very meaning of the phrase. The family members in 'meet the
fockers' are not only irritating but also all very grown up save for a baby that swears with whom you can barely relate to. This
results in the film only being about problems with senior members of society with dog humping jokes thrown in to make it bearable.
The Hoovers put the fockers in shadow with its diversity of characters and the establishment of each role. Every character
contributes to the depth and humor of the story, making each role distinguishable and thus the whole family more memorable and
interesting to watch. This variety, the formation of the characters and the flawless way in which the comedy is built into the story
puts 'little miss sunshine in a whole other league with which the fockers can't hope to compete with. As you may have gathered, I
feel that 'little miss sunshine' is a great feat of film making and what one that almost falls into it's own unique category. So prepare
to have thoughts of all other family comedy driven away as this timeless piece provokes and settles in to the deepest corners of your
mind.