A unique, disturbing comedy backed by a stellar cast

In the midst of a year that was chock full of movies about super heroes, super agents and the supernatural, Little Miss Sunshine blew away the competition. First introduced as an independent film, Sunshine quickly gained momentum and became one of the most well received movies of the year. The film features a stellar cast, a superb screenplay and great direction by Jonathan Dayton.

The movie revolves around the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional family and their journey to learn how to cope with each other. Greg Kinnear plays Richard Hoover, an over-confident motivational speaker who believes the world is separated into two categories: winners and losers.

His grandfather (Alan Arkin) is a cocaine addict and his wife, Sheryl (Toni Collette) tries desperately to keep her family in order. Sheryl’s brother, Frank, is a quiet man with suicidal tendencies, while her two children, Dwayne (Paul Dano) and Olive (Abigail Breslin), each have their own problems. Dwayne takes a vow of silence until he is accepted into the Air Force Academy, and Olive’s dream is to one day become Little Miss Sunshine, the title given to the winner of a “Miss America” type contest for 7 and 8 year olds.

The movie spends a lot of time introducing the characters and letting us get to know the sort of life that they live. In fact, the main event of the film is not even introduced until nearly a half hour into the movie. However, this in no way detracts from the quality of the movie. Every character is unique and easy to sympathize with.

The funniest moments of the movie are also the darkest ones. In many instances, we feel like laughing at the situations the Hoover family get themselves into when we should be shuddering. Steve Carrell, a master of comedy, manages to remain dramatic and comedic at the same time. While most remember him from movies such as The 40 Year Old Virgin and Anchorman, his role as Frank Hoover makes him appear in a whole new light.

Perhaps what makes this movie so enthralling is the statement it makes. Dayton seems to relish the idea of individuality. At the beginning, the Hoover family is made out to be a dysfunctional family, incapable of ever getting along. While they all argue amongst themselves, everyone around them is made to seem normal. However, at the end, in one of the greatest movie scenes in recent history, the Hoover family all get on stage at the Little Miss Sunshine contest and amidst the rich, egotistical families who view themselves as the best, they dance in the way they view normal. They rely upon their individuality to hold them together as a family, and for the first time in the movie, they are the normal ones, while everyone around them appears to be the “weird” ones.

Little Miss Sunshine was recently released on DVD and nominated for two Golden Globes (Best Comedy/Musical, Best Actress for Toni Collette). This only further confirms its recent popularity.

This movie is one of the most honest movies made in years. It reveals many truths about family life, and how although we get on each others’ nerves, when the dust settles, we still love each other as much as before.

Grade: B+

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