Little Miss Sunshine
2006: Jonathan Dayton
Rated R – 101 minutes
Vault Rating: 8
The Sundance Film Festival started out small and really took off over the years. One of the reasons it did was it gave film executives a great excuse to take a business trip to Colorado. The other reason was that smaller films could get a foothold to success there.
We’re studying option B today. Last year’s Sundance was the launching pad for today’s feature, “Little Miss Sunshine,” which garnered all the buzz and rode it to A-Title status around the world. I love it when a little movie gets seen.
Of course, many of my friends would not be calling “Sunshine” a “little movie.” It’s got a decent cast of Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin and Steve Carell, who’s been on something of a roll lately, and promising youngsters Abigail Breslin and Paul Dano. So this team had some money going in (and a very good script) but, for lack of more money, it took five years to complete.
The story is of a dysfunctional family who is determined to get their young daughter (Breslin) to the “Little Miss Sunshine” pageant on time. Sounds pretty tame, doesn’t it? After a brief introduction of characters (a drug-using grandpa, a suicidal Proust scholar and a teen boy with a vow of silence), they all pile into a smiley-face colored VW micro-bus for the long drive.
Some of the film’s ample warmth radiates from these characters who are more human than odd. What family doesn’t have its oddities? But here, each character manages to allow the viewer to get close to them. This is especially true of young Breslin, as “Olive.” She is certainly not child beauty pageant material. She’s a little chubby and sports big glasses and she emulates the movements of beauty queens she studies on video. But she has such personal charm and goodness about her that she sticks out in more ways than one when she finally, after many misadventures, hits the runway.
Breslin, it turns out, is beautiful. That’s what this movie is about.
Sometimes Vault gets too wrapped up in movies being important (there are many of those right now) or intense or deep. This movie is none of those. It’s just a nice movie to watch. It’s got a good sense of humor that the great majority of comedies cant sustain. And if you and your better half are sitting down to put a movie in the grinder this week, there are few safer bets than “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Vault also wants to put you on the lookout for a trio of films that are all about the same thing: Greed. We recently considered “An Inconvenient Truth” (VR:8) and are steamrolling toward these toweringly important films: “Who Killed the Electric Car?” (VR:9) and “Why We Fight” (VR: 10). Each of the films reflect like the different facets of the same gem, and they need to be seen in rapid succession. They are educational mind-bombs on the state of the world vis-a-vis the problem of America’s oil dependence, all taking a look at a different angle. Each will be available at Adventure / Silver Screen as soon as “Who Killed” gets to the stores from the back order list.
Vault also wants to recommend (again) a great Gene Hackman film just in on DVD from the 1970s. It’s called “The Conversation” (VR: 8) and our local stops have just put it on display. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this may be the best character study I’ve ever seen. Tense movie about a very private man who makes his living by invading other people’s privacy. Excellent and highly recommended, it holds up great for a modern audience because, well, who knows who might be eavesdropping on YOU.
And until the Vault gets off the government watch list … Enjoy!