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Scholar, Writer, Mother, Dreamer. Editor of Luminarium, an online library for English Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine - The Little Movie That Could

 In destinies sad or merry,
True men can but try.

 Losers are people who are so afraid
of not winning, they don't even try.

                       ("Little Miss Sunshine")

Every year I try to see all the movies and performances nominated in the major categories for the Oscars, to be more informed when I either defend or criticize the Academy's choices. This year I am in more of a rush than usually, having seen very few of the nominated pictures. Last night I watched "Little Miss Sunshine," a little indie film that has been nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture.

"Little Miss Sunshine" is the story of a family in New Mexico, who are struggling to survive, physically and emotionally. The family consists of a father who is trying to break out with his motivational
"9 Steps to Success" program, a teenage son who has not spoken a word in 9 months, due to a vow of silence in honor of Nietzsche, an uncle who is a pre-eminent Proust scholar, recovering from a suicide attempt, a grandfather who has been kicked out of his old people's home for heroin use, a charming little daughter who dreams of winning a beauty contest, and a mother who is somehow trying to keep it all together. The motley crew have to travel from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach (Greater Los Angeles) for a "Little Miss Sunshine" contest in an old yellow VW bus that is on its last legs.

The movie has moments of extreme hilarity, combined with a lot of heart. The writing is exquisite—the dialogue feels so organic that at times one almost feels awkward listening in on people's private conversations. The acting performances are nuanced and authentic, and the direction has been conducted with such a deft, light touch, that it rarely feels 'stagey'. The movie is a bittersweet gem that makes the viewer both think and feel, identify and sympathize, without making the viewer ever feel manipulated.

Alan Alda, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear

At the SAG Awards, the cast won the award for Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture. This award was well-deserved. I don't want to single out any specific performance, because this was an ensemble film at its best — everyone in the cast gave their all, and in essence there were
6 star performances that blended into one stellar one.

Little independent films where huge things do not happen, where lavish budgets aren't present, and which simply tell a damn good human story, rarely get appreciated by the commercial giants. Unfortunately, the Oscars tend to fall into that same trap. Whether or not "Little Miss Sunshine" wins in the 4 categories or no, this movie, to me, exemplifies why we make and watch movies; because good movies, even when they are telling someone else's story, are telling our own.

It was a beautiful movie, which will likely stay with me for a while. Solid A.

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Blogger SzélsőFa said...

Thank you for the review. I will probably go and see it.

February 12, 2007 8:46 AM  
Blogger mark said...

We loved this movie too. I know it won't win an Oscar, but I'm really glad it got nominated.

I just love Steve Carrell. He's got that perfect level of pathos, where you find him interesting while still identifying with him. I'm always reminded of his "Produce Pete" segments on TDS. They were funny, but sometimes I was unsure if he was acting.

I betcha he'll turn into Bill Murray. Spend a few years doing zany, yet extremely satisfying comedies, and then slowly transition into more poignant material.

February 13, 2007 2:11 AM  
Blogger Anniina said...

I agree - I think he's got great potential as a dramatic actor. And he's got that 'unpurchaseable' quality of likability.

February 13, 2007 4:57 AM  

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