Sunday, September 03, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

What a novel concept in hype ... word of mouth spread by people who have actually SEEN the movie they're squawking about. By that standard, Little Miss Sunshine had the best hype of any movie I've seen all summer, and boy did it deliver on its promise.

It's downright criminal that a movie this funny, with a cast this good, took all summer to make it to my little corner of the world, but that's a different subject for a different time. For now, let's just talk about the movie itself.

Since I think everyone in the world except me has already seen this one, I'll keep the plot summary brief. Young Olive (utterly charming young Abigail Breslin) finds out she has earned a spot in the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, so her family goes on a road trip in a VW bus to get her there. Nothing terribly original there, so it's up to the actors to bring a spark to this, and luckily they do.

Steve Carell is perfectly sullen as a disgraced academic and expert on Proust, and Paul Dano is great (though I must say I had never heard of him before) as Dwayne, who has made the wise decision to stop talking because, as he tells us early on, "I hate everyone!" Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear are the parental units, Alan Arkin is the horny old grandpa, and Ms. Breslin, who I'll mention again later, rounds out the clan as the burgeoning beauty queen Olive.

Though there are funny moments throughout on their trip to the pageant, LMS is that rare road trip flick where the destination is so, so much more important than the voyage. From the moment you see Steve Carrell break out of his lethargy and into that crazy sprint into the hotel hosting the pageant, you know you're in for something unique.

The pageant itself would seem something straight out of a David Lynch movie if you didn't have the very uncomfortable sensation that what you're seeing was all too real. I'll never understand why parents think it's OK to dress up 8-year-olds like beauty queens, but if you can still do it after seeing this, you're just sick. I'm sorry, but it's true. Greg Kinnear's facial expressions run the full range of what you'll feel as you too have to watch this spectacle.

The very ending of Little Miss Sunshine, which I certainly won't give away, is actually something of a litmus test, I think.

I'm a fairly cynical person, but even I had to give in to the good feeling, well earned, that came over me as they finally rallied to save poor Olive from this mess. If that was too much for you, I'm not sure what to say. Seek counseling, I guess.

It's just one of those moments - like when Max stages his Vietnam epic at the end of Rushmore or when Napoleon takes to the stage to save his friend Pedro - that Flannery O'Connor called moments of grace. It's like nothing else you'll see this summer, and if you let yourself give in, it's a truly unique sensation.

A final thought: Since the calendar has turned to September, it's not too early (at least for me) to talk about Oscars. I have a feeling this one will be in for big honors, and thanks to young Ms. Breslin, youth will be served. Due to the rather arcane rules she will probably only qualify as a supporting actress, and I believe young Keke Palmer from Akeelah and the Bee deserves a best actress nomination for her great work in that flick.

Now that would be a strong statement that kids, without getting all hoed up like the contestants in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, have a lot to teach us all.

27 comments:

Sadie Lou said...

mmmm...I scanned through this post because I'm a huge stickler for "give-aways". I don't want to know anything going into a movie like this--I haven't even watched the previews.
That being said, you have further swayed me that this movie is not to be missed in the theaters.
:)

Reel Fanatic said...

It's well worth seeing in the theatre, Sadie ... I don't think I gave away anything that isn't clear from the adverts, but the ending is clearly a spectacle to behold

Sadie Lou said...

Are you interested in the film The Black Dahlia?

Reel Fanatic said...

I definitely am, Sadie ... I loved L.A. Confidential, and I've read Ellroy's book about the Black Dahlia murder ... I'd put this one up there with The Departed as the two movies I'm most looking forward to for the rest of this year

Allison said...

I loved this film as well, and I think you're right to mention Oscar. It was, I think, my film of the summer.

Divinity said...

Saw it tonight and it was utterly amazing. I also skimmed over your post initially because I've often been disappointed by big build ups but this was a brilliant cast allowed to shine in a truly charming script. The key was really when I realized that every character evoked some emotion from me - most violently Richard at the onset on the roadtrip. Two words: ice cream.

Reel Fanatic said...

That scene in the diner was truly a great one, Divinity .. and I just loved the look on little Olive's face when she found out that Miss America (or whatever her title was) likes Cherry Garcia .. priceless

Annie in Austin said...

I enjoyed this well-written review, Keith, and loved the movie, too. The audience in Austin went nuts when the family could see the hotel, but there was no way to get there - similar highway designers at work?

Thank you for commenting at my blog. Who knows what forces came together to stifle Idiocracy - but it stinks.

Annie

Reel Fanatic said...

Hi Annie .. the idiocies of movie distribution are one of the subjects I enjoy ranting about to anyone who is unfortunate enough to be within listening distance, and Idiocracy is a prime example of well, idiocy in terms of distribution

scruffylooking said...

The first two things my daughters said after watching the movie were, "We are definitely buying this once it's out on DVD." And "Do you think the little girl will be up for an Oscar?" Then they started relating their favorite parts.

Pour of Tor said...

Thanks for the message! I too loved "Little Miss Sunshine" - especially the performance of Steve Carrell, who really departs from everything he has done before in a spectacular way. Both halves of the Daily Show's old 'Even Stephen" have gone on to such great things now....

Reel Fanatic said...

Agreed Pour, but Mr. Carell's act goes down a lot smoother for me than Mr. Colbert's .. he just smirks a little too much for his own good!

Shan said...

I can't wait to see this movie. This review just made me want to see it more.

Chris said...

I love your review, too. Nails pretty much everything I felt when watching the movie. Shame that it probably will go down without much notice here in Switzerland... I was the only person at the theater that night!
Well, I've seen this little gem, and that's all that counts for me. And I'm pretty sure it will be in the top ranks at the end of the year.

btw.: thanks for the comment on my blog. Guess I'll have to pay yours a visit more often... next to music, movies are my second favourite timekillers! :)

Best Wishes from Switzerland

Chris

Divinity said...

Hi again! (I think it was Miss California.) I hope you don't mind but I reference linked your review in mine. I was a little more gushy about the whole thing. Obviously not a professional reviewer... :P

Reel Fanatic said...

That is certainly OK, Divinity, and you are welcome to stop by here as often as you want to, of course ... and there's absolutely nothing wrong with gushing about a movie as great as this one!

Invisible Lizard said...

Thanks for the review. Based on what you wrote, my wife and I went out yesterday to see it. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard that I could barely breathe.

Reel Fanatic said...

Glad you liked it, lizard ... as I said, the end of this movie is so perfect that I just can't understand how anyone could help but fall in love with it

Topher said...

This was a really endearing movie. I even got to see it free actually, they were offering free screenings for the movie and I would not have missed it for anything. I'm trying to get my friends to see it so it looks like I'm gonna be watching the movie again (^_^) Have a good week.

Stef said...

Thanks for stopping by. I think your review's dead on, too. Steve Carell running flat-out with his hands fully extended was hilarious. "Did I mention I am the #1 Proust scholar in the nation?" Every actor just nailed the essence of their characters so well, I loved it. Here's to many little statues come awards time!

Sadie Lou said...

RF--I loved L.A.Confidential as well. I'm so excited about The Black Dahlia and I'm pleased with the exposure and success of Miss Scarlett Johansson. She is SO talented.

mellowlee said...

awesome review. I want to see it even more now :)

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks, Mellowlee .. let me know what you think!

Chalupa said...

I got lucky and was able to see this for free as part of Fox Searchlight's free showings. I then went to see it again afterwards because it was definitely that good.

I really liked how you saw everybody in the family grow and change throughout the movie. Kinnear's character becomes more human, Carell's character is accepted and is able to help and Dano's character learns to love his family. This will definitely be in my top 10 for the year.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think it will be in mine too, Chalupa, but there are still some solid contenders coming down the pike, like Pedro's Volver and that new flick from Zhang Yimou

kalipornia said...

oh yay! i'm so glad you finally got to see it!

and i'm so glad you enjoyed it. i have always been reluctant to see a movie tht is hyped so much.

this one taught me the lesson that no matter how much a movie is hyped, if it's good, it's good.

Ain't so said...

I just don't get it. My wife and I watched the DVD for about 20 minutes without even cracking a grin, and finally decided we'd wasted our time and turned on a rerun of Boston Legal that WAS funny. Did it do a 180 at minute 30 or something? I just found the whole thing depressing - maybe it is funny in Lemony Snicket sort of way, but the charcters for all their "unconventionality", seemed stereotypical - we've seen them all before, especially the nihilistic teenager, the depressive gay professor, and the wannabe motivationalist father. Sorry folks, this emporer has no clothes.