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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine Review

Little Miss Sunshine

Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Starring: Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carrell and Alan Arkin.

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Studio: Fox Searchlight

Release date: July 26, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine is a special movie. I saw it at the Los Angeles Film Festival and it was well recieved there by the generous festival audience, as it was at the Sydney Festival and at Sundance Film Festival, where it recieved a standing ovation and was purchased by Fox Searchlight for a record amount. I think the film resonates so well is due in some part to the timing of Steve Carrell's meteoric rise and his participation in the film is wonderful, yet he is not the star of the film - he is one of many elements that makes this film a delight to view.

Little Miss Sunshine is a movie about a family. The Hoovers. They are certainly not the typical American family and each and every character is a misfit in some way. Sure, Kinnear's character is a wannabe motiviational speaker and guide to how to be a "Winner" - but he himself is flawed and bankrupt, too poor to afford sending his daughter to Redondo Beach, CA to participate in a beauty pageant, the only suitable solution is to pack the family into a VW bug and do a road-trip from New Mexico to Southern California.

The VW bug itself is a character in this film and each of the passengers in it serves the story well. The script is funny, poignant and also emotional and the directors are wise to pace the film appropriately allowing for lulls and then laughter and then more laughter as circumstances become more absurd. But it is the characters - the main characters of the family- the Hoovers, but also the minor characters we meet along the way who are absurd and funny and although they may, from the outside appear to be more normal than the Hoovers, it is the Hoovers who ultimately you root for in the end.

Little Miss Sunshine is a difficult film to market. Good thing it is being handled by Searchlight who will probably give the film the Sideways treatment and roll it out slowly. Surely the festival accolades will help and also the participation and hopefully the publicity support of Steve Carrell. But it's always hard to tell if a film such as this can gross more than $10 million in the box office and take off in a Napoleon Dynamite kind of way or whether it will take a meteoric rise and gross more than $50 million.

Similarly, its hard to tell if this is the type of film that critics will gather behind en masse and give it Oscar momentum. I do feel the performances merit some consideration, but its too early in the year to tell and since the film is quirky and "special" it might take a big box office to propel further speculation about Oscar worthiness.

In the meantime, do your part and support this film by seeing it. It will warm your heart, make you laugh and also make you appreciate quality screenwriting, acting and directing in the midst of a summer that is entrenched with blockbuster films and very little special-ness or originality.

3.5 Stars


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