Monday, October 09, 2006

Movie Review: Little Miss Sunshine

Families make excellent source material for interesting movies. And the Hoover family are particularly interesting. There's Richard (Greg Kinnear), a failing motivational speaker who has an extremely strained relationship with his wife, Sheryl (Toni Collette) who has a smoking addiction she denies and does what she can to hold the family together; Dwayne (Paul Dano), the teenage son who is obsessed with Nietszche, has taken a vow of silence until he gets into the airforce to learn to fly and has gone 10 months without speaking; and the "free-thinking" Grandpa Edwin (Alan Arkin) who has been kicked out of his retirement home for sniffing cocaine; Uncle Frank (Steve Carell), a self-proclaimed Proust scholar who has attempted suicide after experiencing unrequited love with one of his students and been sent to live with the family because his medical insurance is inadequate to cover hospitalisation; and finally, there's the seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Bresnen) - a bit on the plump side with big glasses. Olive has won a spot in the finals of a kids' beauty pageant in distant California due to a freak accident involving another contestant. She has dreamed of this day for months -- it's the one thing she really, really wants to do. But how to get her there? The family is financially destitute so they can't afford to fly; and they can't leave Dwayne home with Uncle Frank -- he might attempt suicide again! There's only one thing left to do -- the whole family has to jump in the beat-up VW van and travel to the pageant. We are then taken on a wonderful road trip with a difference. Little Miss Sunshine combines quirky characters, black humour, tragedy, scintillating dialogue, and a truly surprising twist at the end of the story. It's one of the most delightful movies I've seen for a long time with a wonderful message about what it means to belong to a family -- even if it is dysfunctional. It is genuinely funny and moving. Whatever you do, don't miss this one! My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review 'What makes husband-and-wife directing team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' hilarious debut such a great family film isn't that it's suitable for the whole family (it's not), but that it speaks a simple truth about what it means to be part of one.' - Ken Fox/TV Guide Negative Review 'Like the shambling VW van its hapless characters steer from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach, Little Miss Sunshine is a rickety vehicle that travels mostly downhill.' - Jim Ridley/Village Voice Content Warning language, some sex and drug content Aus: M USA: R

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