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August 1, 2006 > Little Miss Sunshine Rated R

Little Miss Sunshine Rated R

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

I saw this film at a press screening almost three weeks ago but wasn't sure if it was going to hit wide release or not. Unfortunately for movie lovers (especially good movie lovers) in the Tri-City area, it didn't. You'll have to travel pretty far to catch this flick, as neither fandango.com nor IMDB.com (best movie site EVER) have nearby listings for any upcoming screenings. My advice: keep an eye open for screenings because this film is definitely worth seeing. Worst case scenario; pick it up off the Sundance shelf at Blockbuster once it comes out on DVD.

Little Miss Sunshine tells the story of a family that travels across the country so their youngest member can compete in a beauty pageant in California. But it's okay, this is not a film about the rigors of being a child performer, and it's definitely not about one of those creepy stage moms who try to live a glamorous life vicariously through her daughter. Quite the contrary: this is a film about a family that drops everything to bind together and help a little girl realize her dream: to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.

There're a few catches, though. This is by no means a functional family. Greg Kinnear plays the winning-obsessed father Richard, who teaches a self-help seminar about success that no one goes to. Toni Collette plays his slightly more easygoing wife Sheryl, a once-divorced mother of Dwayne (played by Paul Dano), who has chosen to take a Nietzsche-inspired vow of silence until he reaches his goal of joining the air force. The always-hilariously (and now decidedly good at drama, too) Steve Carell plays Sheryl's clinically depressed gay brother, just out of the hospital for attempted suicide. Alan Arkin plays Richard's heroin-addicted father and the young Abigail Breslin rounds out the cast as the eager-to-compete Olive.

As the family races across the country in their yellow VW bus that only works in third and forth gears, an offbeat but touching story about abandoned dreams, young hope, and the possibilities of greatness unfolds. This family of failures must learn to come together as they decide that win or lose, the most important thing is to get Olive to the pageant so she can compete.

I didn't really know what to expect from this film. I became aware of it through the trailer page at Joblo.com (great for movie news, trailers, etc.). The trailer blew me away (go check it out!) and when I saw who was in the cast, I was even more excited. This is an unconventional touching and hilarious comedy slash drama that'll have you cracking up for an hour and a half and leave you walking away all warm and tingly. The conversations between the "winning is everything" dad Richard and his sarcastic brother-in-law Frank are particularly side-splitting, and Alan Arkin's role as Olive's Grandpa is priceless. Bottom line: it's worth almost any amount of effort it'll take for you to track down a theater that's playing this "indie" flick. Like the recent Thumbsucker, this is one of those must-see films that flies under everyone's radar, but nothing less than a plane ticket should keep you from this film. 

 
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