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LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, 2006
Movie Reviews!

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LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE MOVIE POSTER
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, 2006
Movie Reviews

Directed by Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin
Review by Martyn Warren



SYNOPSIS:

A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.

OSCAR winner for Best Supporting Actor (Arkin), Best Original Screenplay

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REVIEW:

Since itís premier at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, Little Miss Sunshine (dir. Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton) has become very popular in the independent film industry and won Best Original Screenplay award at the BAFTA and Academy Awards in the same year it was first shown. With well-known cast members and dark humour thereís something for cinema audiences.

The story opens up with seeing the individual lives of a dysfunctional family and getting an insight on what their interests, goals and situations are before the filmís plot challenges these characters and as a family when the youngest member, Olive (Abigail Breslin), is invited to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in California.

With the family driving in a bright yellow VW campervan across the open American country to reach the pageant within a couple of days, we see them getting caught in hilarious situations and having darkly humorous discussions, from pushing their van to get it running to Grandpa Edwin (Alan Arkin) giving some bad advice about sex towards Dwayne (Paul Dano). Itís during their challenging road trip that we seem them all bonding and seeing a lighter side of the film that makes you care more about the characters as time progresses.

All of the crew members have done a brilliant job in putting together such a well-crafted film and some in particular deserve the attention they have received.

Screenwriter Michael Arndt was a brilliant attribute for writing a film that has such dark and humorous scenes, while making the family highly likable throughout the running time. The dialogue is also very well written, feeling very realistic on what most typical families would really argue on and the touching scene with the granddad and granddaughter getting ready for the pageant. With Arndt behind the writing of Toy Story 3 (dir. Lee Unkrich), which is his second writing project, hopefully cinemagoers will be treated to more of his work.

The two directors, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, have done a great job for their feature film debut and truly brought the best out of the crew and cast. Before attempting to make this film, the two directors worked together on promotional and music videos for numerous musicians, meaning that they would have worked with different lights, colours and framing options to suit the different songs. In the film, the audience is exposed to the bright colours of the American landscape with wide frames to show off as much of the locations as possible, while the scenes of the family in the van have paler colours and the cameraman uses close ups, mid-shots and two shots to give the impression of the characters being trapped.

The cast have obviously worked hard to build a strong bond in order to show the chemistry of the family and to individually construct their individual characters as well.

Greg Kinnear plays Richard, the father of the family who is trying to use his motivational success programme to become successful and the only person who believes in what he says, which generally causes friction between some of the family members. Sheryl (Toni Collette) is Richardís wife and she is seen either causing friction with her husband after trying to help him or attempting to solve a family situation. With their relationship, they both seem to use each other to express their frustration and anger towards each other, appearing as though theyíre emotionally calm.

Olive is the youngest of the family and the source of affection for the characters when theyíre confronting their own demons or asking serious questions to understand how they feel. She is also the only character who is shown having a connection with Grandpa Edwin, who in return shows less of his vulgar and rebellious attitude towards her.

Both Frank (Steve Carell) and Dwayne are seen together several times and their relationship is focussed more on their same feelings on the current situation. This is also interesting since Dwayne has taken a vow of silence to become a pilot and since bro has just failed to commit suicide at the beginning of the film, he is mostly depressed and that emotion does eventually fade away.

Since the release of the film, both Paul Dano and Abigail Breslin have starred in successful mainstream films, with Dano starring in the award winning There Will Be Blood (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson), while Breslin recently starred alongside Cameron Diaz in My Sisterís Keeper (dir. Nick Cassavetes).

My final thought of Little Miss Sunshine is simply that it is beautifully constructed with the writing and the use of colours and shots the directors decided to use. With actors and actresses different people will recognise as well, this is one film that should be able to please everyone and anyone.

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