Little Miss Sunshine
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Little Miss Sunshine tells the story of the Hoovers, one of the most endearingly fractured families ever seen on motion picture screens. Together, the motley six-member family treks from Albuquerque to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, California, to fulfill the deepest wish of 7-year-old Olive, an ordinary little girl with big dreams. Along the way the family must deal with crushed dreams, heartbreaks, and a broken-down VW bus, leading up to the surreal Little Miss Sunshine competition itself. On their travels through this bizarrely funny landscape, the Hoovers learn to trust and support each other along the path of life, no matter what the challenge.
Pile together a blue-ribbon cast, a screenplay high in quirkiness, and the Sundance stamp of approval, and you've got yourself a crossover indie hit. That formula worked for Little Miss Sunshine, a frequently hilarious study of family dysfunction. Meet the Hoovers, an Albuquerque clan riddled with depression, hostility, and the tattered remnants of the American Dream; despite their flakiness, they manage to pile into a VW van for a weekend trek to L.A. in order to get moppet daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Much of the pleasure of this journey comes from watching some skillful comic actors doing their thing: Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette as the parents (he's hoping to become a self-help authority), Alan Arkin as a grandfather all too willing to give uproariously inappropriate advice to a sullen teenage grandson (Paul Dano), and a subdued Steve Carell as a jilted gay professor on the verge of suicide. The film is a crowd-pleaser, and if anything is a little too eager to bend itself in the direction of quirk-loving Sundance audiences; it can feel forced. But the breezy momentum and the ingenious actors help push the material over any bumps in the road.-- Robert Horton
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- Disc 1 Side A:
- Full Screen Feature
- Disc 1 Side B:
- Widescreen Feature
- 4 Alternate Endings with optional commentary by directors Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
- "Till the End of Time" performed by DeVotchka from the soundtrack
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When Olive gets a chance to participate in the finals of a beauty contest in another state, the family pack up in the yellow VW van. On the way, dad keeps in touch with the guru who's supposed to get his first book off the ground, of which he told mom "This is it," an apparent promise to get his office out of her kitchen. He excitedly shares his "9 Step" self help program to everyone. Grandpa, who has been helping Olive with the "talent" part of her performance, sneaks into the bathroom to snort some of the cocaine that got him kicked out of the retirement home and into the Hoovers' household. Frank seems to be growing comfortable with this quirky family of his sister's, particularly Dwayne.
But before they reach the Redondo Beach hotel where the pageant takes place, losses or the poignant memories knock the wind out of each of the yellow, sunshiny bus's passengers. Painful (and expensive) as these problems threaten to be, no one suggests turning back.
Once in Redondo Beach, afraid the pageant is not for Olive, they are tempted to "protect" her from her own dream. After all, they've all just been a little bruised, they don't want her to feel such pain. But instead, they find a way to temper the consequences of living those dreams out, a little. In doing so, they craft a last scene full of all the comedic command of Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, an up and coming little Abigail Breslin, other members of this stupendous cast, and a certain funky number by the late Rick James.
This DVD is worthwhile in that the directors' and writers' comments are helpful in understanding the film. I'm surprised to hear, for example, that the directors thought the scene with Frank (Steve Carell) in the convenience store (no spoilers, sorry) would be funny. It will break your heart--as will the one scene where Dwayne does become emotional.
The camera technique used by having a camera in the back and front of the bus (and several different busses) gave more of a sense of what the crew and cast were going through on this low-budget film: clearly a labor of love.
Don't get too excited over the 4 alternate endings. 1 of them is Abigail Breslin's (Olive) ending, "with Abigail Breslin directing" and you can pretty much guess the 2 minute ending she would have liked. It's funny, but it was never seriously considered.